OxyContin has always been the world's top-selling opioid painkiller, bringing in billions in sales for privately held Purdue, which also sells a newer and longer-lasting opioid drug called Hysingla.
Figures from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in four people who received prescriptions to opioid drugs such as Oxycontin struggle with addiction.
The company said it is reducing its sales staff by more than half, and that its remaining salespeople will no longer visit doctor's offices to push their product.
The pharmaceutical giant behind the painkiller OxyContin is "restructuring", announcing Friday they will stop promoting their opioid-based drug to doctors. Doctors with questions about opioids will be directed to the company's medical affairs department. Purdue Pharma is the first major opioid drug maker to end the practice of marketing painkillers to medical professionals, reports Bloomberg. The company was found to have overstated how long the effects of the medication lasted and severely downplayed the addiction risks of the drug. "But if other opioid manufacturers would do the same, it would have a bigger effect".
The decision by Purdue Pharma comes as the industry battles an avalanche of lawsuits across the nation related to an epidemic of opioid abuse.
A surge in prescriptions of opioids followed the 1995 release of the drug when about 90 million opioid prescriptions were filled. Opioid litigation increased sharply in 2017 when hundreds of cities, counties and states sued opioid makers, wholesalers, distributors and marketers.
Purdue and three former executives pleaded guilty in federal court a decade ago to criminal charges of misleading the public about the addictive nature of OxyContin, paying more than $630 million in fines and penalties. It will now have about 200 sales representatives, Purdue said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has drawn criticism for his response to the opioid crisis.