- Purdue Pharma this week laid off about 350 employees, including the remainder of its sales force, as it attempts to move away from a business model built around the aggressive marketing of prescription opioids like its top-selling Oxycontin.
- The company, which remains in the spotlight for its alleged hand in contributing to an opioid addiction crisis, ceased direct marketing of its prescription painkillers to doctors in February. At the time, Purdue cut its sales force by 50%.
- "Purdue Pharma is taking significant steps to transform and diversify beyond our historic focus of pain medications," said a company spokesperson in an emailed statement.
The layoffs bring to a close Purdue's sales engagement with prescribers for its medicines, marking a notable shift for a company under scrutiny for its aggressive marketing tactics in the past.
Purdue still sells opioids, but questions and requests for information have been routed to the company's medical affairs team since February.
Roughly half of the 350 staff let go this week were part of Purdue's remaining sales force, which had continued to work with doctors on the company's non-opioid medicines.
Purdue is now left with about 550 employees across all of its locations.
"Going forward, primarily through emphasis on internal and partnered research and development programs, the company will be pursuing new medications and unmet needs for patients suffering from cancer and select central nervous system disorders," the Purdue spokesperson said.
In November, the company announced its intention to advance a portfolio of four experimental treatments for cancer — two of which are in early- to mid-stage clinical testing. Research, however, will be outsourced to Mundipharma EDO GmbH and it's unclear what kind of mark Purdue can make in a therapeutic area outside of its traditional focus.
Purdue and Eisai are also developing a drug for several sleep disorders in partnership with Japanese pharma Eisai.
While Purdue may have wound down its marketing to prescribers, the legal challenges faced by the privately held company don't appear to be going away anytime soon.
Twenty-four states and Puerto Rico have filed lawsuits against Purdue over its marketing of opioid painkillers, according to Reuters. And just this week, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued Purdue, its executives and members of the Sackler family for allegedly misleading doctors and consumers about the risks of addiction to opioids.
The Sackler family owns Purdue and holds the majority of seats on the company's board, according to the Massachusetts attorney general's office.
Other opioid drugmakers like Endo International as well as major drug distributors such as McKesson have also faced scrutiny for their role in the epidemic.