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Attorney General Rosenblum announces $350 million national settlement with marketing giant Publicis over role in opioid epidemic

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum today announced a $350 million national settlement with global marketing firm Publicis to resolve investigations into the firm’s role in fueling the opioid crisis.

“Oregon’s $5.2 million share of the Publicis settlement will be added to the nearly one billion dollars our office has secured for Oregon in legal settlements with companies associated with the opioid crisis. It will go toward treatment and recovery for those Oregonians who suffer from substance use disorder,“ stated AG Rosenblum.

From 2010 until 2019, Publicis, one of the world’s largest healthcare advertising companies, was Purdue’s ad agency of record, and counted Purdue as its top opioid client. Publicis worked with Purdue to promote branded opioids OxyContin, Butrans, and Hysingla and helped develop unbranded marketing campaigns.

“Our fight for accountability from the companies responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic doesn’t end with the manufacturers, distributors, or dispensers of the drugs. In fact, this is the second consulting firm we have settled with for their contributions —as clients of the drug companies —to this ongoing public health disaster. The toll the products promoted by Publicis has taken on Oregon families and communities is simply staggering, and it is only right for them to be held to account for their significant role,” added AG Rosenblum.

Publicis’s projects covered all aspects of Purdue’s marketing and sales, including designing sales strategies and tactics, maximizing the reach and influence of Purdue’s sales force, using electronic media, designing content, developing promotional messaging, drafting scripts and other materials for Purdue sales representatives to use with prescribers, helping with internal operations and sales activities, targeting prescribers who would be most likely to prescribe large amounts of opioids, recording intimate discussions between prescribers and patients about opioids, and a variety of other marketing, consulting, and sales activities. The company was also instrumental in Purdue’s decision to market OxyContin to providers on patient’s electronic health records.

In agreeing to the terms of the settlement, among other injunctive terms, Publicis will disclose on a public website thousands of internal documents detailing its work for opioid companies like Purdue Pharma and will stop accepting client work related to opioid-based Schedule II and Schedule III controlled substances.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, five Oregonians die from opioids every week. Deaths tripled from 2019 to 2022, when 956 people in Oregon died. And last year, there were even more deaths, according to preliminary data. In addition to the devastating impact on families and entire communities, the opioid crisis has resulted in considerable costs for Oregon’s health care, child welfare, and criminal justice systems.

Attorney General Rosenblum served on the executive committee of the multistate group, which included the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont. They are joined by the attorneys general from all states, territories, and the District of Columbia. AG Rosenblum commended the superb work of her opioid crisis legal team led by Assistant Attorney in Charge of Opioid Litigation and Recovery/Pharmaceutical Fraud David Hart.