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Opioid Crisis: French Ad Firm to Pay $350 Million in Landmark Settlement

Publicis Health, a prominent healthcare advertising agency, has agreed to pay $350 million to settle allegations that it played a significant role in the U.S. opioid crisis, making it the first advertising agency to be involved in such a settlement.

This landmark agreement brings an end to nearly three years of legal discussions, following accusations that Publicis Health employed deceptive marketing strategies that contributed to the opioid epidemic.

Three-Year Legal Battle

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This settlement marks the culmination of a lengthy legal battle that began when prosecutors accused Publicis Health of implementing predatory and deceptive marketing tactics for Purdue Pharma.

These tactics allegedly led to increased prescriptions and sales of opioids, including OxyContin, contributing to the devastating opioid crisis in the United States.

Collaboration with Purdue Pharma

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Publicis Health collaborated with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, on marketing campaigns for various opioids from 2010 to 2019.

During this period, they allegedly implemented Purdue Pharma’s “Evolve to Excellence” scheme, which targeted doctors who prescribed OxyContin extensively.

The scheme involved flooding these doctors with sales calls and marketing messages that promoted increasing patients’ dosages, often without medical necessity.

Allegations of Fueling the Epidemic

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Prosecutors argued that Publicis Health’s marketing efforts and the subsequent increase in opioid sales played a crucial role in fueling the opioid epidemic that has had devastating effects on communities across the United States.

Multimillion-Dollar Payout

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The attorney general’s office, led by Attorney General Letitia James, negotiated the multimillion-dollar settlement with Publicis Health.

New York will receive approximately $19,176,750.60 from the settlement, which will be allocated to opioid abatement, treatment, and prevention efforts.

Ongoing Commitment

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New York’s Attorney General Letitia James highlighted the state’s ongoing commitment to combatting opioid use.

The state has already allocated more than $2.7 billion to fund various opioid abatement, treatment, and prevention initiatives.

Comprehensive Approach

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Publicis Health’s settlement does not include direct cash payments, as it focuses on a comprehensive approach to addressing the legacy of slavery and systemic racism.

Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson emphasized that reparations involve more than just cash payments and require a multifaceted solution.

Implementing Task Force Recommendations

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Legislators are working to implement the 115 recommendations made by the reparations report issued in June 2023, following two years of studying the impact of slavery on Californians who are descendants.

These initiatives aim to correct injustices highlighted in the 1,600-page reparations panel report.

Support for Affected Communities

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Attorney General Letitia James vowed to continue supporting communities ravaged by the opioid epidemic, providing them with critical resources to rebuild.

The attorney general stressed the importance of assisting communities affected by this crisis.

Settlement Details

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Publicis must pay the $350 million settlement within 60 days and is prohibited from accepting future contracts related to the marketing or sale of opioids.

Additionally, the company is required to release internal documents related to its work with opioid manufacturers, consultants, and agencies.

Publicis Health’s Statement

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Publicis Health issued a statement asserting that the work undertaken for opioid manufacturers primarily occurred through an advertising agency called Rosetta, which was shuttered a decade ago.

The company emphasized that its work related to these products was always fully compliant with the law.

Industry Collaboration

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Publicis Health acknowledged the need for collaboration across industries, lawmakers, and communities to combat the opioid crisis effectively.

The company expressed its commitment to playing a role in addressing this ongoing challenge.

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