Purdue's Top Doctor and Researcher Are Leaving the OxyContin Maker

(Bloomberg) -- Purdue Pharma LP said its chief medical officer and top researcher will leave the company in the coming weeks to pursue other opportunities outside the opioid maker.

Purdue, which created the painkiller OxyContin, faces numerous lawsuits over its role in the U.S. addiction and overdose epidemic. Chief Executive Officer Craig Landau has suggested that the company could file for bankruptcy as one option to deal with its potential liability.

One of the executives who plans to leave is Marcelo Bigal, who was hired as chief medical officer in March 2018. He is responsible for medical governance and patient safety oversight for all Purdue products in development and in the market, according to a news release announcing the appointment. Bigal was previously chief scientific officer for the specialty drug unit at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

The other departing executive is R&D head John Renger, a neuroscientist who worked for many years for Merck & Co. before joining Purdue in 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was promoted in April 2018, making him responsible for the company’s overall scientific direction and development strategy, according to a news release at the time.

Both executives report directly to Landau, according to the earlier news releases. Purdue didn’t specify the exact timing of their departures.

“Purdue has already implemented leadership and additional organizational changes to accommodate these departures and will pursue its business plan,” said Robert Josephson, a Purdue spokesman.

In a LinkedIn message, Renger confirmed he was leaving Purdue for another role, but said he couldn’t yet say where. Bigal didn’t immediately respond to attempts to reach him for comment.

Purdue, based in Stamford, Connecticut, is controlled by the billionaire Sackler family. In March, Purdue and Sackler family members agreed to pay $270 million to settle Oklahoma’s claims that illegal marketing of OxyContin devastated local communities in the state.

The company is looking at a number of options concerning its future, said Josephson, but “there is no timetable, nor has a decision been made” about bankruptcy, he said. A Chapter 11 filing would conceivably halt the many lawsuits against the drugmaker by U.S. cities and states and allow cases to be adjudicated by a single bankruptcy judge.

Josephson said in a statement that Purdue is diversifying its business beyond its historic focus on opioid painkillers to treatments for cancer and central nervous system disorders.

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