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Purdue Files Show It Knew Cuts Wouldn’t Kill OxyContin Sales

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 12/10/2019 Erik Larson and Jef Feeley
a close up of a guitar: Blister packs containing tablets of OxyContin, sold in China by Mundipharma Pharmaceutical Co., are arranged for a photograph at an undisclosed location in China, on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016. In China, powered by soaring cancer rates and an aging population, OxyContin is turning into a hit.© Bloomberg Blister packs containing tablets of OxyContin, sold in China by Mundipharma Pharmaceutical Co., are arranged for a photograph at an undisclosed location in China, on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016. In China, powered by soaring cancer rates and an aging population, OxyContin is turning into a hit.

(Bloomberg) -- When Purdue Pharma LP cut the last of its sales force in June 2018, some analysts figured the move by the maker of OxyContin painkillers would help address a U.S. opioid-addiction epidemic the company had been accused of creating.

But documents filed Monday by a group of state attorneys general in the company’s bankruptcy suggests the maneuver wasn’t quite the sacrifice it seemed.

Purdue had already calculated that “carry over” sales from its past aggressive marketing of the drugs would continue to generate hundreds of millions of dollars through 2022, even without sales staff encouraging doctors to prescribe it, according to internal records filed in the Chapter 11 case.

Officials of Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue determined in November 2017 that OxyContin sales for 2018 and 2019 would be about $1.4 billion with a sales force and about $1.34 billion without it, the states said in a so-called notice of public health information.

“We all knew the Sackler family was planning their exit from the epidemic they helped cause with all their money,” Hunter Shkolnik, a lawyer representing local governments suing Purdue over its handling of OxyContin, said in an interview. “This shows just how calculated they were about it all.” The Sackler family owns Purdue.

Purdue Pharma said in an emailed statement that the information cited in the filing is “highly misleading,” and that each dosage of OxyContin is a lawful prescription medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating severe pain. It said the appropriate forum to address such issues is the FDA rather than bankruptcy court.

Read More: Purdue Pharma Cuts Rest of Its Sales Force in Opioids Pullback

The states said the court should use the filing to help determine whether Purdue needs to do more to protect consumers while it’s in bankruptcy, including whether the company should help patients get on lower doses or support the transition of patients “away from Purdue opioids to less dangerous methods for the treatment of pain.”

Patients are “taking OxyContin today as a consequence of Purdue’s decades-long, illegal marketing campaign,” lawyers for the states said in their filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement data also shows people continue to die from OxyContin overdoses and Purdue executives should consider suspending production of the drug. Healey leads a group of states opposing Purdue’s offer to resolve thousands government lawsuits over opioids for about $10 billion.

“Far too many Purdue patients continue to overdose and die,” Healey said. “We are calling on Purdue to change its ways now, before more families lose people they love.”

The case is Purdue Pharma LP, 19-23649, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (White Plains)

(Updates with Purdue Pharma response in sixth paragraph; an earlier version of this story corrected gender of a company spokeswoman.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.net;Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware at jfeeley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Joe Schneider

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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