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Opioids killed more than 42,000 people in 2016 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 40 percent of those deaths involved a prescription opioid.

"We would have more success in encouraging cautious prescribing if drug companies stopped promoting aggressive prescribing", he told the Times.

Purdue Pharma, the company best known for selling the prescription painkiller OxyContin, announced on Saturday that they would stop marketing opioid drugs to doctors.

USA deaths linked to opioids have quadrupled since 2000 to roughly 42,000 in 2016, or about 115 lives lost per day.

In a statement to The Verge, a Purdue spokesperson says that "we have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers".

Doctors who want information on opioids will now need to contact the company's medical affairs department.

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.

Purdue "vigorously denies" any misconduct, saying it has consistently followed the CDC's opioid guidelines including not recommending opioids as a first option.

Purdue's sales representatives will now focus on the Symproic drug created to treat opioid-induced constipation, and other non-opioid products. But some users quickly discovered they could get a heroin-like high by crushing the pills and snorting or injecting the entire dose at once.

"It is hard to promote more cautious prescribing to the medical community because opioid manufacturers promote opioid use", he said.

"Overall, the impact will be small because the genie is out of the bottle", Kolodny said.

He said Purdue's decision is helpful, but it won't make a major difference unless other opioid drug companies do the same. It later acknowledged that its promotions exaggerated the safety of the drug and minimized its risk for addiction. The drug was marketed as a non-addictive treatment for chronic pain. The institute also found that the United States is the biggest consumer of hydrocodone in the world, taking in nearly 100 percent of the world's doses.

Purdue for years made the case that OxyContin was less addictive than other opioid painkillers, and that the risks of opioid addiction in general were overblown - claims partly rooted in a decades-old anecdotal letter rather than scientific research.

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty in 2007 to felony charges for false marketing of OxyContin and paid $635 million as a result.


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