LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – An advertising agency has agreed to pay $350 million in a settlement with U.S. states for its marketing role in the U.S. opioid epidemic.
Of the settlement with Publicis HealthMichigan will receive nearly $11.7 million, which the state will use to help address the opioid crisis, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Thursday.
“Corporations that profited greatly from the devastating opioid epidemic must pay for prevention and remediation to help those affected recover,” Nessel said.
Between 2000 and 2020, the opioid death rate in Michigan increased by an average of 13.9% each year, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
According to CBS NewsPublicis Health is the first advertising company to reach a major settlement on the cost of the opioid epidemic in the United States.
Publicis said in a statement that “This settlement, in which the Attorneys General recognized Publicis Health’s ‘good faith and responsible corporate citizenship,’ does not constitute in any way an admission of wrongdoing or liability.”
The company went on to say that “if necessary, we will defend ourselves against any litigation that this agreement does not resolve.”
Publicis also claimed that work for pharmaceutical companies was primarily the role of Rosetta, a small agency that closed 10 years ago, “which was already working with pharmaceutical clients manufacturing opioid medications when it was acquired 13 years ago in 2011.”
The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, who led the negotiations with Publicis, said Publicis had worked with Purdue Pharma between 2010 and 2019, assisting in campaigns for OxyContin, Butrans and Hysingla.
According to James’ office, the campaigns Publicis helped produce had highlighted the abuse-deterrent properties of OxyContin and promoted increasing patient doses.
Michigan AG Nessel said the death rate caused by opioids, as well as the impacts on thousands of people who have been addicted to opioids, have “created considerable costs for our health care, child welfare and criminal justice systems.”
Wayne County Circuit Court court documents describe how Publicis Health helped Purdue Pharma develop sales tactics that relied on data from recordings of personal in-office conversations between patients and healthcare providers, according to the AG.
Nessel said the company was also involved in Purdue’s decision to “market OxyContin to providers in patients’ electronic medical records.”
“The cost of this settlement to Publicis is nothing compared to the human toll these drugs have had on Michigan families and communities,” Nessel said.
Publicis Health said in its statement that it is “reaffirming our long-standing decision to reject any future opioid-related projects.”