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Purdue Pharma’s Decision to Scale Back on OxyContin Marketing – Too Little Too Late?

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Purdue Pharma’s Decision to Scale Back on OxyContin Marketing – Too Little Too Late?

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Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, alleged to be the drug that precipitated the current opioid crisis which has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, has announced that it will be no longer marketing the drug to doctors. But will this be too little, too late or is it in response to the multi-litigant lawsuit which is ongoing against the company?

The opioid crisis is thought to have begun around 1996, when OxyContin came on the market. It has been alleged that Purdue Pharma aggressively and seductively marketed the drug to doctors nationwide minimizing its addictiveness and maximizing its painkilling potential. The current status of the opioid crisis cannot now be blamed on any one particular factor as it has gone well beyond a single drug company. The crisis, which has been responsible for an estimated 64,000 deaths last year alone, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures, is multi-factorial. Any attempt at arresting the crisis and reversing the horrifying numbers of deaths and the pain and suffering involved must be multi-pronged.

Some of the key factors involved in the crisis are listed below:

  1. Drug companies like Purdue Pharma that manufacture opioid painkillers like OxyContin and OxyCodone and market them actively to doctors in an allegedly dishonest way.
  2. Doctors that prescribe opioid painkillers without seriously investigating whether they are going to lead their patients into addiction.
  3. Illegal narcotics suppliers that latch onto addicted people and further their addiction with products that are even more powerful.
  4. Insurance companies that have been accused of deliberately substituting less addictive, but more expensive drugs for more addictive, but cheaper drugs as part of a health insurance scheme.

It is important to note that the use of opioids is not a new phenomenon. In fact, opioids of one type or another have been taken for both recreational and medical use for at least 200 years, probably longer considering the historical use of opium in the Far East. It may be remembered that Britain actually provoked a war with China over the securing of the opium market. However, the current crisis has been strongly linked to the appearance of very active and addictive painkillers on the U.S. pharmaceutical scene in the early 1990s. OxyContin was one, but not the only drug that was manufactured and marketed to doctors for use as an effective painkiller. Purdue Pharma was one, but not the only drug manufacturer involved.

The question of blame and therefore whether compensation is justified lies in how much companies like Pudue Pharma knew all along that the drugs they were marketing were so addictive. How much did they deliberately mislead the doctors they marketed their products to about the degree of danger that use of the drugs could involve? Purdue Pharma has all along ever since the first allegations claimed that their drugs were not as addictive as has been alleged against all evidence to the contrary.

Part of the problem is that the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dragged its heels over the use of the drug, making it more difficult to openly question Purdue Pharma and other drug companies’ motives.

The tide began to turn in 2007 when Purdue Pharma admitted to federal charges against it that it had misled doctors about the addictiveness of OxyContin and was fined. It remains the subject of hundreds of lawsuits against it for the pain and suffering caused to thousands of people across the country.

Purdue Pharma’s recent decision may have been made in advance of the results of the current ongoing lawsuits or maybe because of the company’s declining profit made from the manufacture of the drug. It has also been speculated that there is an attempt to deflect legal action away from the family that owns the company, the Sacklers. So far, all legal action has been directed solely at the company itself.

Whatever the immediate results of the Purdue Pharma decision it is not likely to stop the opioid crisis in its tracks any time soon. It is too late for this decision to have any immediate effect. As of this year, at least half of the deaths from opioid addiction are caused by illegal drugs such as heroine and fentanyl, yet only a few years ago, nearly all opioid deaths were caused by opioid painkiller prescriptions. The link between the overuse of the legal drugs and the spill over into illegal opioid use is convincing. There are now calls for companies like Purdue Pharma to help pay for the attempts to attack the public health crisis which these companies have been alleged to have created in the first place.

Government agencies and personal injury attorneys who specialize in medical prescription errors will be keenly watching the progress of the lawsuits currently working their way through the courts and those still to come.

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