- Office of the Attorney General
Media Contact for AG Campbell Announces $350 Million Settlement With Multinational Marketing Firm Publicis Health Over Role In Opioid Epidemic
Sabrina Zafar , Deputy Press Secretary
Boston — Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell today announced a $350 million national settlement with Publicis Health that would resolve the Commonwealth’s litigation against the marketing and communications firm for its role in the opioid crisis, including its work for opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma. Massachusetts will receive nearly $8 million from the settlement to help address the opioid crisis.
The settlement will fund the state’s Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund to provide support for opioid use disorder prevention, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction efforts throughout Massachusetts. As part of the settlement, the company will disclose on a public website thousands of internal documents detailing its work for opioid companies and will stop accepting client work related to opioid or other opioid-based Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substances.
“For years, Publicis Health’s marketing schemes helped fuel the nationwide opioid crisis, which has shattered some of our most vulnerable communities, while creating significant financial strain on our state systems,” said AG Campbell. “I am proud of my team’s national leadership in securing this settlement, which 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 across Massachusetts.”
In its May 2021 complaint against Publicis Health, the Commonwealth alleged that Publicis Health, a subsidiary of global advertising conglomerate Publicis Groupe, partnered with Purdue on dozens of contracts, collecting more than $50 million in exchange for marketing schemes to get doctors to prescribe Purdue’s opioids to more patients, in higher doses, for longer periods of time. The Commonwealth alleged that Publicis devised marketing strategies to combat prescribers’ hesitancy to prescribe OxyContin, including materials used to train and assist Purdue sales reps in detailing doctors, and told Purdue how to target the most dangerous high prescribers. According to the lawsuit, the company was also instrumental in Purdue’s decision to market OxyContin to providers through patients’ electronic health records.
More than 20,000 Massachusetts residents have died from opioid-related overdoses over the last 20 years. These deaths—and the impacts on thousands who have struggled with opioid addiction—have created considerable costs for our health care, child welfare, and criminal justice systems. More significant than the dollars and cents in damage to our state, the opioid crisis has harmed communities, damaged relationships, and torn families apart.
In the Publicis matter, Massachusetts served on the executive committee of a multistate investigation, along with the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont. They are joined in this multistate settlement by the attorneys general from all states, territories, and the District of Columbia.
This matter has been handled by the AG’s Health Care Division, including Deputy Division Chief Ethan Marks, Assistant Attorneys General Chloe Cable and Gregory Hardy, Analyst Philipp Nowak, and Paralegal Gaëlle Bouaziz, with assistance from Deputy Chief Mary Freeley of the AG’s Health Care and Fair Competition Bureau and Director of Investigations Marlee Leo of the Civil Investigations Division.
This matter is one of two recent efforts to address the ongoing opioid crisis and support individuals, families, and communities impacted by the crisis. Today, AG Campbell is also announcing a multistate settlement in principle with opioid manufacturer Hikma Pharmaceuticals (Hikma) for its role in fueling the opioid crisis. The settlement will resolve claims that from 2006 to 2021, Hikma failed to monitor and report suspicious opioid orders from potentially illegal distributors, even while its personnel knew their systems to monitor suspicious orders were inadequate and prone to failure.
As part of the settlement in principle with Hikma, Hikma will pay $150 million to participating states and localities, encompassing $115 million in cash and $35 million worth of opioid addiction treatment medication. States that do not accept the medication will receive cash in lieu of product. The settlement in principle was negotiated by the attorneys general of New York, California, Delaware, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia in coordination with an executive committee consisting of AG Campbell, along with the attorneys general of Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon. In Massachusetts, the Hikma matter is overseen by the AG’s Health Care Division.
To date, Massachusetts has reached legal settlements with opioid manufacturers and others that will return more than $1 billion to the state and local communities.