The spread of OxyContin around the world

Oct 31, 2017

Sales of OxyContin are down in the US. 

Now that we're in the midst of an opioid epidemic, doctors aren't prescribing the painkiller — and others like it — as much as they once did.

But something else is happening, too.

The family that owns the company that manufactures OxyContin — the Sackler family — is looking increasingly outward, to other countries, to market their product.

“They are moving into the developing world, and they are looking at countries that have strong middle classes with health insurance,” says Los Angeles Times reporter Harriet Ryan. “They are looking at China, Brazil, throughout Latin America, and parts of the Middle East and Africa, as well as some of the lesser developed countries in Europe — Portugal, for example.”

Ryan is a co-author of an article, OxyContin goes global — 'We're only just getting started,'" about how the drug is being marketed abroad.

“They are using many of the same tactics that were controversial in the US,” she says. “And that were credited into making OxyContin a pharmaceutical blockbuster here." 

For example, the company has been running training programs for doctors all around the world, to encourage them to prescribe opioids — to treat even minor aches and pains.

“When you go to these countries, they’re touting the benefits of these drugs without saying, ‘Hey, look at what it did to Florida, look at what it did to Appalachia, look at the rates of babies being born in, in some American states that are addicted to these drugs; that information is not highlighted,” Ryan says.


From PRI's The World ©2017 PRI