OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma will stop promoting opioid drugs to doctors the company said in a surprise announcement. The company said that it will no longer send representatives to doctors’ offices to promote the highly-addictive painkiller. Half of its sales staff has been eliminated and the remaining staff of about 200 will focus their efforts on other medications.
Purdue is privately owned and one of the biggest drug companies in the U.S. Forbes estimates its annual revenue at about $3 billion. Most of that, it’s believed, is generated by sales of OxyContin.
U.S. deaths due to opioid abuse have quadrupled since 2000 to roughly 42,000 in 2016. More than 7 million Americans are estimated to have abused OxyContin since it first came to market in 1996, according to the Los Angeles Times. And research from the Wharton School at UPenn has found that states were OxyContin abuse rates were highest, had the largest increases in heroin deaths.
Purdue says it will help in the fight against opioid abuse and addiction, by growing information sharing and education efforts, as well as making their drugs harder to abuse through technical innovations. “We want everyone engaged to know you have a partner in Purdue Pharma. This is our fight, too,” a statement issued by the company read.