OxyContin Maker Edits Ad After Appearing To Admit Opioids Pose Dangers ‘Even When Taken As Prescribed’

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The manufacturers of the painkiller OxyContin appear to have edited a newspaper advertisement that stated opioids can be dangerous “even when taken as prescribed.”

Purdue Pharma bought a full-page advocacy advertisement in The Washington Post July 19 that appeared to acknowledge, for the first time, that opioid medications carry an inherent risk for addiction and abuse to any patients given a prescription. The company has always maintained that while their medication can be misused, it is safe when patients follow the prescribing guidelines, reports Kaiser Health News.

The same advocacy advertisement appeared in The Washington Post July 24, but the statement “even when taken as prescribed” was removed. The sentence now simply states “We are acutely aware of the public health risks opioid analgesics can create.”(RELATED: Former Sale’s Rep Accuses OxyContin Maker Of ‘Disturbing’ Marketing Practices Used To Push Pills After Massive Settlement)

“They’ve always framed it as an abuse problem, as if the opioid crisis was fueled by people trying to get high,” Andrew Kolodny, Brandeis University’s co-director of Opioid Policy Research, told Kaiser Health News. “I’ve never seen them state that publicly before. It’s disappointing that they may have backtracked.”

Representatives for Purdue Pharma did not specifically comment on the apparent edit to the advertisement, but told Kaiser Health News that, “addiction, abuse, misuse and diversion of opioids, even when taken as prescribed, is well-known and clearly spelled out.”

Purdue Pharma is facing 26 lawsuits filed by state attorneys general and more than 400 lawsuits from cities and counties across the country. They accuse the company of orchestrating a fraudulent marketing scheme to boost sales of OxyContin that downplayed the risks for addiction from pain medication.

Company representatives deny any claims of wrongdoing and say they are committed to working with the government to solve the opioid epidemic. Purdue takes particular issue with accusations they pushed false information about their drug on medical providers, noting statements about OxyContin are approved by Food and Drug Administration regulators.

Representatives for Purdue previously said it is, “inappropriate for the state to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the regulatory, scientific and medical experts at FDA.”

Purdue Pharma, which ended its marketing practice of promoting painkillers to health care professionals in February, pleaded guilty in 2007 to felony charges for false marketing of OxyContin and paid $635 million as a result.

Drug overdoses, fueled by opioids, are now 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.

The epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S., officials say. Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.

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