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OxyContin Manufacturer Changes Marketing Practices

Going forward, Purdue will halt promotion of opioids to doctors.

Privately held pharmaceutical manufacturer Purdue says that it will no longer market OxyContin, the most sold opioid painkiller in the world, to doctors. Multiple lawsuits blame the pharmaceutical company for helping to trigger the opioid epidemic and are putting pressure on Purdue. This has led to the termination of over half of its sales staff and scaled back promotion of the opioid drug.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs made from the naturally growing opium poppy plant or other synthetic sources. Mostly used to treat moderate and severe pain, opioids contain chemicals that relax the body by connecting to and activating opioid receptors on cells in the brain, spinal cord, and other organs. Because they can make people feel so relaxed and “high” as they release large amounts of dopamine into the body, opioids are highly addictive. Even when opioids are used in short duration, withdrawal symptoms can occur once a round of medication is concluded. Misuse can lead to overdose and slow or labored breathing, which can result in coma, permanent brain damage, or even death.

Common prescription opioids include:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®) Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana®)
  • Fentanyl

When women use these opioids during pregnancy, their babies have the potential to develop a birth defect such as spina bifida, hydrocephaly, microcephaly, congenital heart defect, and brain damage. Use during pregnancy can also lead to miscarriage and low birth weight.

OxyContin History

OxyContin, first approved in 1995 as a treatment for pain, works over a 12-hour period to keep a consistent level of oxycodone in a patient’s system. Opioid use has skyrocketed due to the aggressive marketing tactics pushed by the pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. The opioid drug companies have been producing misleading articles and advertisements that downplay the dangerous side effects of opioids. These deceptive techniques were effective in convincing doctors and regulators that the drugs were safe and effective, even for long-term use.

In 2007, Purdue and three of its executives pleaded guilty to misleading the public about the risks of OxyContin. The drug was reformulated in 2010 to lessen the risk of misuse. By doing so, Purdue recognized that its marketing had inflated the drug’s safety and downplayed the risk of addiction in consumers. Current lawsuits allege that drugmakers purposefully misled both doctors and patients about opioid dangers by using “front groups” and “key opinion leaders” to encourage over-prescription.