News & Events

Publicis and State Attorneys General Reach $350 Million Opioid Settlement

Posted on February 07, 2024

By Brian MacLeod

On February 1, Publicis Health and 50 states, along with many US territories, settled for $350 million to settle a lawsuit over Publicis’ role in exasperating the opioid crisis via their work with Purdue Pharma.

Starting in 2021, state attorney generals, led by Massachusetts, claimed that Publicis used deceptive marketing techniques in order to push opioids such as OxyContin on doctors and patients through work with Purdue Pharma between 2010 and 2019. The attorney generals claimed that the company pushed doctors to prescribe more pills and higher doses, and benefited by receiving tens of millions of dollars in fees. Some of these deceptive tactics included using messaging that countered Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and advertising OxyContin on patients’ medical records.

Publicis, however, claimed that all of their work with Purdue was done through a subsidiary called Rosetta that had closed a decade ago, and was already working with opioid manufacturers when it was acquired. They said that Rosetta provided advertising services and worked only with healthcare providers using language and communication tools approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The settlement will allocate $343 million between the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five US territories, with the rest of the money being reserved for attorney fees, expenses associated with the investigation, and other costs. The settling states have agreed on how to split up the settlement. Publicis will pay around $161 million in full, after tax, with the rest of the payment being covered by insurers.

Attorney Generals throughout the country celebrated the settlement as a win for consumers and a step in the right direction toward addressing damages created by the opioid epidemic. Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell said that this settlement “will not only bolster accountability and transparency for this ongoing crisis, but will also provide millions of dollars for much needed treatment and services to support individuals and families.”

A spokesperson for Publicis stated, “the full settlement amount should quickly and directly contribute to the state’s opioid relief effort.” They added that “the attorneys general recognized Publicis Health’s good faith and responsible corporate citizenship,” but claim that this settlement is not an admission of guilt or wrongdoing in any way. Publicis says they will still be defending themselves against any other unresolved litigation.

The case is Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Publicis Health LLC, case number 2184-CV-01055-BLS1, in the Superior Court of Suffolk County, Massachusetts.