Publicis Health has agreed to shell out $350M to settle claims that its predatory and deceptive marketing for Purdue Pharma designed to increase sales of OxyContin helped fuel the opioid crisis, according to New York attorney general Letitia James. Her office co-led a coalition of 50 state attorneys general.
The French healthcare firm created ads, brochures and pamphlets that promoted OxyContin as safe and unable to be abused.
It implemented McKinsey & Co.’s “Evolve to Excellence” campaign that targeted doctors who prescribed the most OxyContin and flooded them with sales calls and marketing.
Those physicians received a barrage of messaging touting the “abuse-deterrent” aspects of OxyContin and the so-called benefits of increasing dosages.
The aggressive marketing resulted in a rise in opioid prescriptions nationwide, which led to abuse, addiction and overdose deaths.
James said Publicis and its clients fueled and profited from the opioid epidemic. In 2020, 4,233 New Yorkers died from opioid-involved overdoses, up 294 percent from 2010. The Empire State will receive $19.2M of the settlement.
Publicis, which also handled Purdue’s Butrans and Hysingla opioid, is required to pay the $350M within 60 days and refrain from accepting any future opioid marketing or sales work.
For its part, Publicis Groupe said that its opioid efforts were carried out by its Rosetta ad agency that was shuttered ten years ago.
It also noted that the settlement recognized Publicis Health’s “good faith and responsible corporate citizenship” and is not an admission of wrongdoing or liability.