Purdue, Mundipharma push for OxyContin growth in emerging markets: report

OxyContin-makers Purdue and Mundipharma are taking their sales push global.

In recent years, officials in the U.S. have made strides in addressing a national opioid epidemic, leading to depressed sales for drugmakers selling the meds. Now, OxyContin-maker Purdue is taking its sales push global.

In a new investigative piece, the LA Times documents how privately held Purdue and a network of companies around the world operating as Mundipharma have focused on new markets to advance the reach of their powerful painkiller. In Latin America and Asia, Mundipharma personnel are advertising to docs and offering patient assistance, the publication reports, to grow the drug’s prospects.

In a 2016 article published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, supported by Mundipharma, authors wrote that “In general, opioids are not prescribed as often as they ought to be in many developing nations.” In an ad posted to YouTube by the Spanish Society of Pain, also supported by Mundipharma, naked public figures tell viewers they’re not alone, with a woman saying they shouldn’t “resign” themselves to pain. “Rebel against pain,” displays at the end of the spot.

While CDC officials have recently called for a drastic reduction in opioid prescriptions, Mundipharma execs are pushing into new markets by seeking to defeat an “opiophobia,” or the fear by doctors to prescribe the drugs. On behalf of the company, opinion leaders travel to emerging markets to speak with docs and talk about the painkiller, the newspaper said.

In a statement to the Times, Mundipharma said it is “mindful of the risk of abuse and misuse of opioids” and is applying lessons learned from the addiction issue in the U.S.

Separately, in China, Bloomberg reports that physician marketing and joint efforts between the government and pharmaceutical company have led to an increase in opioid painkiller use, giving a local boost to Mundipharma.

At $13 billion in assets, Forbes places Purdue’s owners, the Sackler family, among America’s richest. Two brothers founded the company in 1952 and have captured enormous wealth since, with three generations now running the operations, according to the LA Times.

Along the way, officials in the U.S. have homed in on the company’s practices, kicking off lawsuits and investigations into its marketing in Chicago, California and elsewhere. Back in 2007, Purdue and three execs pleaded guilty to mismarketing and paid $635 million to settle legal entanglements.