"In some instances they are merely fronting for these manufacturers, especially if you look at the lobbying they've done against restricting opioids", said McCaskill, adding: "These financial relationships were insidious, lacked transparency, and are one of many factors that have resulted in arguably the most deadly drug epidemic in American history". However, he does think it is a step in the direction of less opioids being prescribed by doctors. In 2016, opioids killed more than 42,000 people across the country, a five-fold increase over opioid deaths in 1999.
Purdue manufactures three prescription painkillers: OxyContin, Butrans, and Hysingla. He said he doesn't take Purdue's motivations at face value. The report released Monday concluded that the top opioid manufacturers helped fund advocacy organizations in the anti-pain sphere. The company claimed that with OxyContin's long, 12-hour release, it posed less risk of addiction and abuse than shorter-term opioid drugs, such as Percocet or Vicodin.
The unexpected shift in policy from Purdue Pharma is likely a concession to the demands of dozens of states and localities suing the drug maker, along with other manufacturers of opioid painkillers, for igniting the addiction crisis through deceptive marketing practices that downplayed the risks of their drugs.
While Purdue said they now want to be part of the solution, and denies any wrongdoing, sources tell CBS News that Purdue was already wearing out its welcome in doctor's offices, and had moved on to targeting insurance companies and other parts of the health care system to drive sales of OxyContin.
Purdue, which makes OxyContin, announced it'll no longer market its opioid products.. In the legal claims, the governments seek money and changes to how the industry operates, including an end to the use of outside groups to push their drugs.
Purdue has slung OxyContin on doctors since it was approved in '95, and has pulled out all the stops to promote it in marketing campaigns. Although initially driven by prescription drugs, most opioid deaths now involve illicit drugs, including heroin and fentanyl.
Insys Therapeutics, a company recently targeted by federal prosecutors, provided more than $3.5 million to interest groups and physicians, according to McCaskill's report.
Insys contributed $2.5 million previous year to a U.S. Pain Foundation program to pay for pain drugs for cancer patients.
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