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Advertising agency settles for $350M over opioid crisis role

Publicis Health, an advertising firm involved in marketing campaigns for OxyContin and other opioids, has agreed to a $350 million settlement to avoid potential trials over its contribution to the opioid epidemic, according to state attorneys general. This payment by the Publicis Groupe subsidiary, to be completed within two months, is earmarked primarily for efforts to combat the ongoing overdose crisis. This marks the first instance of an advertising company reaching a significant settlement related to the U.S. opioid disaster.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

The settlement follows allegations against Publicis Health for its work with Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin manufacturer, between 2010 and 2019, including promoting the drug’s abuse-deterrent features and recommending dosage increases. New York Attorney General Letitia James highlighted that the company’s marketing strategies falsely emphasized the safety of these drugs, contributing to the epidemic. As part of the agreement, Publicis will disclose internal documents showcasing its involvement with Purdue and other opioid producers.

This case adds to the growing list of over $50 billion in settlements from drug manufacturers, distributors, and other parties implicated in fueling the opioid crisis, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives. The settlement underscores the extensive reach of the crisis, from prescription opioids to the current surge in deaths linked to illicit fentanyl and similar substances, illustrating the multifaceted nature of this public health emergency.