OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Fires Remaining Sales Team

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

The pharmaceutical giant behind the painkiller OxyContin revealed it cut its entire remaining sales team in a shift away from opioids.

Purdue Pharma announced the changes Tuesday, which will effectively end any contact the company has with medical providers regarding their medications. The company eliminated more than half of their sales force in February when they announced an official end to their promotion of opioid painkillers directly to doctors, reports the Hartford Courant.

Representatives for Purdue did not specify how many jobs were impacted, but the previous cuts left roughly 200 employees working on their sales team. (RELATED: How One Painkiller Ignited The Addiction Epidemic)

“This information today also means that Purdue has ended its sales force engagement with prescribers for all of its medicines,” Bob Josephson, spokesman for Purdue Pharma, told the Hartford Courant. “Purdue Pharma is taking significant steps to transform and diversify beyond our historic focus of pain medications. As a consequence of these plans and as the most recent change new management has made over the last year, a number of positions at the company have been eliminated.”

The company says that while it will still manufacture opioid-based medications, it is shifting primary focus to research and development into medications aimed at treating cancer and central nervous system disorders.

Dozens of lawsuits across the country allege Purdue Pharma launched a fraudulent marketing scheme to boost sales of OxyContin in the late 1990s that downplayed the risks for addiction from pain medication, contributing to the current opioid crisis.

Purdue Pharma denies allegations of complicity in the opioid epidemic and said they are committed to curbing rates of opioid abuse.

Purdue Pharma is owned by the Sackler family, listed at 19th on the annual Forbes list of wealthiest families in the country at a worth of $13 billion. The family’s fortune largely comes from OxyContin sales, which its company branded and introduced as an extended release painkiller in 1995.

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Opioid overdoses made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.

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