Purdue Pharma will stop promoting its opioid drugs to doctors

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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.

The boom in OxyContin prescriptions, and the resulting expansion of the deadly abuse of opioids, has been consistently blamed on Purdue's aggressive and misleading marketing of the drug. The remaining 200 sales reps will focus on non-opioid drugs such as Symproic, the company said.

Doctors with opioid-related questions will be directed to its medical affairs department. Sales of OxyContin and other opioids have fallen recently amid pressure from regulators, insurers, and the general public.

Amid the opioid epidemic, Purdue and other drugmakers have been fighting a wave of lawsuits by states, counties and cities that have accused them of pushing addictive painkillers through deceptive marketing.

Alabama last Tuesday became the latest state to file a lawsuit accusing the private CT company of fueling the USA epidemic by misrepresenting the risks and benefits of opioids.

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OxyContin was launched by Purdue Pharma in 1995. The company continues to be the largest seller of prescription painkillers in the United States, and also has a prescription sleep aid line of drugs and over-counter-products.

On its website, Purdue-which is a privately held company-is positioning itself as still wanting to be a player in pain management going forward.

Purdue said in a statement that it "vigorously denies" allegations of misconduct, adding that its products account for only "approximately 2%" of all opioid prescriptions.

More than 60,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S.in 2016, overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids rose to about 20,000 in 2016 compared with 3,105 in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Eventually, Purdue acknowledged that its promotions exaggerated the drug's safety and minimized the risks of addiction.