OxyContin, the powerful opioid-based painkiller, has seen a 40 percent drop in sales since 2010, and the manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, plans to recover by expanding sales globally.
The decline in OxyContin’s clout, especially in the past year, is because “there’s been a greater recognition that opioids are lousy drugs for chronic pain,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. “There’s an increasing recognition that they don’t work well, and many patients can get addicted.”
OxyContin was one of the most popular painkillers of choice in the U.S., and the Sackler family, sole owners of the Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, swiftly turned their business into a $13 billion company, according to Forbes. However, senior public health officials and the medical community began to discourage the medical use of opioids for chronic pain. Purdue’s net worth has since dropped from $14 billion when they first made Forbes 2015 list of richest newcomers.
When OxyContin debuted in 1996, Purdue Pharma persuaded doctors to prescribe opioids for any and all types of pain, while also assuring them that the risk for addiction was not as dangerous as it really was.
Purdue now plans to expand into Ecuador, Uruguay, Chile, Venezuela and Peru followed by areas in Africa, the Middle East and other regions. These territories are not familiar with the risks surrounding excess exposure to, and use of, medical opioids, and Purdue will apply the same marketing strategies there as they did in the States.
“They’re repeating a formula that works for them,” Kolodny said. “They launched a campaign to encourage medical providers to treat and prescribe opioids aggressively. They launched a campaign that minimized risks like addiction and exaggerated the benefits of opioids. It resulted in billions of dollars in sales of their product, and so if it worked in the United States, it looks like they have every reason to believe that it will work in other parts of the world, and they’re probably right.”
Purdue began training seminars that persuade physicians to overcome “opiophobia” in countries like China and Brazil. The company is also… (continue reading)