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Maker of OxyContin to stop promoting opioids to doctors

End of an era: Purdue to stop marketing opioids to doctors

Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin, said on Saturday it will stop marketing opioid drugs to physicians following a slew of lawsuits against the company over the opioid epidemic, The Hill reports.

OxyContin has always been the world's top-selling opioid painkiller and generated billions in sales for privately-held Purdue.

Doctors who want information on opioids will now need to contact the company's medical affairs department.

We were the first company to introduce an opioid pain medication with abuse-deterrent properties and labeling claims, and we are investing in research to develop non-opioid pain medications. The remaining 200 sales positions will focus their efforts on the drugmaker's non-opioid products.

Purdue and other opioid drugmakers and pharmaceutical distributors continue defending themselves against hundreds of local and state lawsuits seeking to hold the industry accountable for the drug overdose epidemic. Purdue officials confirmed in November that they were in settlement talks with a group of state attorneys general and trying to come up with a global resolution of the government opioid claims.

A surge in prescriptions of opioids followed the 1995 release of the drug when about 90 million opioid prescriptions were filled.

"We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis, and we are dedicated to being part of the solution", the company said.

The lawsuits accuse the companies of, among other things, misleading prescribers and the public by marketing opioids as a safe substitute for non-addictive pain medications such as ibuprofen.

Opioids are substances that work on the nervous system in the body or specific receptors in the brain to reduce the intensity of pain.

Opioids killed more than 42,000 people in 2016 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 40 percent of those deaths involved a prescription opioid. It later acknowledged that its promotions exaggerated the safety of the drug and minimized its risk for addiction.