Will Canada Cease Opioid Marketing Efforts Targeting Doctors?

Purdue Pharma announces it will stop marketing opioids to American doctors in wake of lawsuits and raging opioid epidemic across North America.

In 1996 Purdue Pharma introduced their wonder drug, OxyContin. They claimed it would provide “smooth and sustained pain control all day” and that it would “simplify and improved patients’ lives.” They failed to highlight the intense addictive features of the drug or the fact that many patients experience pain symptoms earlier than every 12 hours. “More than 194,000 people have died from overdoses involving opioid painkillers since 1999 and abuse of those drugs is blamed for the resurgence in heroin addiction” in North America alone. In part, these staggering numbers have been blamed on Purdue’s aggressive marketing techniques that target doctors and provide lucrative incentives for doctors to prescribe the drug to patients.

Last month, Purdue Pharma announced that it will stop its aggressive marketing techniques to American doctors. This announcement comes in the wake of a deadly opioid epidemic that is raging across North America as well as multiple lawsuits that are pending against Purdue Pharma for misleading marketing tactics.

Purdue released a statement saying, “We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and our sales representatives will no longer promote opioids to prescribers.” Purdue Pharma has greatly reduced its salesforce in the United States and has informed doctors that its sales team will no longer visit doctor’s offices to sell or discuss their products.

Purdue’s revision to their marketing techniques are most likely a response to the 42,000 deaths that opioids were responsible for in 2016 alone. At least 14 states in the United States have filed suit against the company, claiming that they mislead doctors and patients about the addictive level of the drug and its ability to treat long-term, chronic pain.

In 2007, three Purdue executive pleaded guilty to misbranding of the drug and agreed to pay 634.5 trillion dollars in damages, but that was over 10 years ago, and death rates are still rising and Purdue executives are still making millions.

Will Canada follow suit?

Even though Canada is facing a similar opioid epidemic, it has not taken any steps to counteract Purdue Pharma’s presence in Canada.

Similarly to the United States, Canada has filed class action lawsuits against Purdue for the misrepresentation of their product, OxyContin. Purdue has agreed to pay 20 million in a class-action lawsuit that claims Purdue used deceitful marketing techniques to sell their product. Purdue says “it makes no admissions of liability by resolving the class action.” Although less aggressively, Purdue Pharma sales reps still market to Canadian doctors. The opioid crisis in Canada has driven the rise in Heroin and fentanyl use. In 2016, the Canadian Government addressed the rising Opioid epidemic in their publication of the Joint Statement of Action to Address the Opioid Crisis. The paper addresses the commitment to address the problem of opioid addiction in the country.

Many are calling for Canada to follow America’s action steps. They believe that Purdue should no longer be able to market to Canadian doctors, and the Government needs to step in and let Purdue know that they are not welcome in Canada. Canada has seen an average of 3,000 deaths per year due to complications linked to opioid addiction, and many believe the Government could be doing more to combat this devastating epidemic.

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