PA, Maryland get tens of millions in settlement with opioid marketing firm

02 February 2024- Attorney General Michelle Henry announced that Pennsylvania has joined a $350 million national settlement with Publicis Health for damages caused by the marketing firm’s work with Purdue Pharma and other companies, which contributed to the opioid addiction epidemic.

Pennsylvania is expected to receive $15.7 million through the settlement, with the funds going to the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs for opioid abatement services across the state.

This funding stream is separate and in addition to national settlements — for which the Office of Attorney General was a leader — with opioid manufacturers and distributors. Those settlements are expected to bring an estimated $1 billion to Pennsylvania over a period of years.

”Publicis played a crucial role in these lethally-addictive opioids getting into the hands and homes of Pennsylvanians — it helped Purdue Pharma and others to market and publicize the drugs without full disclosure of their addictiveness and other harmful effects,” Attorney General Michelle Henry said. “This settlement will help communities heal and recover, while ensuring Publicis no longer partners with manufacturers of opioid-based Schedule II narcotics.”

“Publicis’ designs and marketing helped spread misinformation that fueled the opioid crisis, leaving addiction and death in its wake,” said Attorney General Brown. “The epidemic destroyed lives and tore families apart. I will always stand up against companies that prioritize profits over the health, safety, and wellbeing of Marylanders to ensure innocent people cannot be taken advantage of by big pharma.”

As part of the settlement, Maryland is set to receive $7.2M worth of funds to help alleviate the effects of the opioid crisis.

In agreeing to the terms of the settlement, Publicis recognized the harm its conduct caused, and, additionally, the company will disclose on a public website thousands of internal documents detailing its work for opioid companies like Purdue Pharma. Publicis also agreed to stop accepting client work related to opioid-based Schedule II or other Schedule II narcotics.

Court documents detail how Publicis acted as Purdue’s agency of record for all its branded opioid drugs, including OxyContin, even developing sales tactics that relied on farming data from recordings of personal health-related, in-office conversations between patients and providers. The company was also instrumental in Purdue’s decision to market OxyContin to providers on patient’s electronic health records.

Today’s filing is the latest action Attorney General Henry has taken to combat the opioid crisis and to hold accountable those responsible for creating and fueling the crisis. To date, settlements in the amount of $1 billion with drug manufacturers, distributors and others for their roles in the crisis have been achieved, and critical funding to battle the ravages of opioid addiction has been allocated throughout the Commonwealth.

The multistate group was led by Colorado, with Pennsylvania joining, along with Attorneys General of all states, territories, and the District of Columbia.