The company also said it eliminated more than half its sales staff this week and will no longer send sales representatives to doctors' offices to discuss opioid drugs. Its sales representatives will now focus on Symproic, a drug for treating opioid-induced constipation, and other potential non-opioid products, Purdue said. Purdue, which has reportedly generated approximately $35 billion dollars in revenue, in a statement said it had "restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers". But some users quickly discovered they could get a heroin-like high by crushing the pills and snorting or injecting the dose at once.
Purdue first introduced Oxycontin in 1985. Purdue for years made the case that OxyContin was less addictive than other opioid painkillers, and that the risks of opioid addiction in general were overblown - claims partly rooted in a decades-old anecdotal letter rather than scientific research. After federal investigations, the company and three executives pleaded guilty in 2007 and agreed to pay more than $600 million for misleading the public about the risks of OxyContin.
Andrew Kolodny, director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University in MA, told the Associated Press that although Purdue's decision to stop marketing the drug is helpful, it won't make a major difference unless other opioid drug companies follow suit. "Millions of Americans are now opioid-addicted because the campaign that Purdue and other opioid manufacturers used to increase prescribing worked well".
"Overall, the impact will be small because the genie is out of the bottle", Kolodny said.
Instead, the company said it will direct prescribers to materials published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the office of the US surgeon general. The company was found to have overstated how long the effects of the medication lasted and severely downplayed the addiction risks of the drug.
"They are still doing this overseas", Kolodny said of their worldwide arm Mundipharma. OxyContin is the nation's top-selling opioid painkiller.
Purdue has denied the allegations, stating that its drugs are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and account for only 2 percent of all opioid prescriptions. Although initially driven by prescription drugs, most opioid deaths now involve illicit drugs, including heroin and fentanyl.