With the opioid crisis garnering more and more attention across the United States, many drug manufacturers are starting to take steps to curb the crisis. This is especially true of Purdue Pharma, the primary manufacturer of the popular opioid painkiller Oxycontin. Based on information from the company, Purdue Pharma will immediately stop promoting the drug to physicians in an effort to have them write fewer prescriptions to patients, and will also reduce its sales staff by as much as 50 percent. Set to take effect immediately, it comes as a response to the company currently being the focus of numerous lawsuits by patients and their families.
Illegal Drug Dealers and the Opioid Crisis
While many healthcare professionals, law enforcement personnel, and social service agencies welcome the move by Purdue Pharma, they still anticipate the opioid crisis to continue due to the activities of illegal drug dealers, who are currently manufacturing a variety of illegal drugs that are similar in appearance and effect to the real drugs. Considered to be more dangerous than the original drugs, the street drugs are expected to be in higher demand than before, due to the actions of the pharmaceutical companies.
A Lack of Resources
Even with the move being welcomed by those battling the opioid crisis, many are very concerned about what they still see as a lack of resources that are needed to adequately fight the opioid epidemic. However, with this step by Purdue Pharma, many healthcare professionals and others on the front lines of the epidemic believe this may be a first step toward the nation beginning to view the problem as an illness, rather than only a legal and law enforcement problem.
Prior to this step by Purdue Pharma, company executives were involved in lawsuits related to Oxycontin. A decade ago, the company and several top executives pleaded guilty to misleading the public about the possible addictive aspects of Oxycontin, and paid well over $600 million in fines and penalties. These lawsuits have been compared to many of the current lawsuits filed against the company, all of which have focused on accusations the company failed to adequately disclose the addictive nature of Oxycontin. As lawsuits have increased sharply in the past several years, numerous government agencies have stated they feel as if the alleged misleading statements of Purdue Pharma have resulted in local, state, and federal agencies being overwhelmed by the number of people needing help with this problem.
Purdue Pharma’s Reaction
Along with its current decision to stop marketing Oxycontin to doctors and reducing its sales force, Purdue Pharma has steadfastly denied allegations that it misled healthcare professionals and the public about the effects of Oxycontin. According to the company, their product accounts for less than two percent of all opioid prescriptions, and Purdue also states that it has always followed the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control regarding opioids, which state that opioids such as Oxycontin not be the first option doctors prescribe for pain.
Continued Use of Oxycontin
While there will be much less emphasis on encouraging doctors to prescribe Oxycontin, many industry experts still expect the drug to be a popular choice for doctors who are treating patients dealing with cancer and other illnesses that have chronic pain as one of their main components. Because the drugs are viewed by doctors and patients as the best option currently available to treat extreme pain, some feel as if the company’s response to today’s political climate will make only a small dent in the number of prescriptions written to patients. However, with many details still to come, the future remains unclear.
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