Beat you to it, Purdue. Other opioid makers already ditched promotions

Hydrocodone opioid pills
While Purdue said it will quit marketing opioids including OxyContin this week, many other opioid makers have already quit. (Getty/smartstock)

While the news that Purdue Pharma plans to stop marketing opioids made a media splash this week, other opioid makers probably wondered why it was a big deal—because they had already quit.

Endo, Teva, Allergan and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit all stopped marketing opioids before Purdue’s announcement, with some backing off several years ago. And some have not only given up marketing, but also development and production of the powerful painkillers whose abuse has become a nationwide epidemic.

A Janssen spokesperson said the company stopped promoting and developing opioid products in 2015, and noted in its email statement to FiercePharma that, since 2008, the volume of Janssen opioids is less than 1% of the total opioid prescriptions written annually.

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Endo stopped promoting Opana ER in 2016 and eliminated the drug’s salesforce shortly after that, said an Endo spokesperson via email. In 2017, it pulled the drug from the market at the FDA’s request “despite having a statutory right to challenge that request, (and) implemented additional anti-diversion measures and terminated its new opioid product development programs,” she said.

Allergan doesn’t “actively market or promote any opioid products today,” said a spokesperson via email. Allergan’s branded opioid drugs, which came to Allergan through acquisitions, haven’t been marketed in years—for Norco not since 2003 and for Kadian and Fiorinal not since 2012.

Allergan also pointed out its drugs' small market share, noting they accounted for less than .04 % of all opioid products prescribed in 2017. Allergan sold its Activis and Watson businesses, which contained all its generic opioid products, to Teva in 2016.

Teva, for its part, stopped promoting Fentora earlier this year, said a spokesperson in email, noting that the company’s other branded opioid Actiq has not been promoted in more than a decade.

Insys Therapeutics, which has been named in lawsuits along with other opioid makers in this story, declined to comment to FiercePharma about opioid marketing. A spokesman said in an email, “We have no comment on this subject presently and typically don’t comment on the decisions of other companies.”

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Of course, quitting marketing or even stopping the sale of opioid products won’t make the pharma companies' legal woes go away. Dozens of states and even more cities and counties are suing drugmakers on allegations of improper marketing stretching back years. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., this week published details of $10 million in pharma payments to groups that pushed opioid use in a report of her probe looking at five companies: Purdue, Janssen, Depomed, Insys and Mylan.

Some of the pharma companies that responded to FiercePharma’s query about opioid marketing also added statements about their company’s commitment to help address the opioid crisis, even as they support safe and responsible use of pain medicines for patients.

Teva, for instance, wrote, “Teva recognizes the critical public health issues affecting communities across the U.S. and our goal is to prevent prescription drug abuse without sacrificing patients’ needed access to pain medicine.”