Avanir Pharmaceuticals cuts 11% of workforce, including sales reps amid probe into marketing practices

Avanir Pharmaceuticals will lay off 73 U.S. employees, or about 11 percent of its workforce, by the end of January as part of a sales restructuring plan, according to the Orange County Business Journal.

The layoffs, which will affect people in sales-related positions, come as a Los Angles lawyer investigates the marketing and sales practices Avanir used to push its key drug Nuedexta.

Two months ago, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer launched a probe into Avanir to determine if the pharmaceutical company violated state or federal laws by aggressively targeting elderly patients in its marketing and selling of Nuedexta, which has not been extensively studied in the elderly.

Nuedexta is FDA approved to treat pseudobulbar affect, which is a rare condition marked by uncontrollable laughing and crying that affects less than 1 percent of Americans. However, a recent CNN report found Nuedexta's financial success was instead propelled by a sales team pushing physicians to prescribe the drug to elderly patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's. The CNN report details instances where the drugmaker paid physicians large sums of money to prescribe the drug.

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