The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy

Summary and Analysis

Purdue Pharma's history of marketing and promoting OxyContin shows what influence money has on our social framework. Offering large bonuses to their expanding sales force, giving physicians free symposiums on pain management, giving out "free" samples of the drug to patients, Purdue ran a well-funded and targeted campaign. Doctors who prescribed opioids the most were contacted and then approached by the sales representatives. The videos and literature given to the physicians were filled with proven false claims. But perhaps the most harmful was  targeting non-cancerous patients for pain management. All these actions lead to OxyContin becoming the most abused opioid in the United States in a few, scant years.

One long-term consequence of OcyContin's marketing campaign is that it gave Big Pharma a "successful" template for a model that can be used for other controlled substances. The FDA has done nothing to change their current guidelines as to the promotion and marketing of drugs, so there is nothing to prevent or change the behavior of the kind of company that had tremendous financial success with OxyContin.

Excerpted from National Center for Biotechnology Information

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Abstract: I focus on issues surrounding the promotion and marketing of controlled drugs and their regulatory oversight. Compared with noncontrolled drugs, controlled drugs, with their potential for abuse and diversion, pose different public health risks when they are overpromoted and highly prescribed. An in-depth analysis of the promotion and marketing of OxyContin illustrates some of the associated issues.

Modifications of the promotion and marketing of controlled drugs by the pharmaceutical industry and an enhanced capacity of the Food and Drug Administration to regulate and monitor such promotion can have a positive impact on the public health.