Publicis Health Settles Lawsuit Related to US Opioid Marketing

The work was undertaken by defunct health agency Rosetta

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Publicis Health is set to pay around $350 million in a multistate legal settlement involving its role in marketing highly addictive opioids and the resulting U.S. addiction crisis.

Through the now-shuttered agency Rosetta, the advertising network was working with Purdue Pharma, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019 due to the lawsuits it was facing around marketing and selling opioids including OxyContin.

The company also worked on opioid marketing and sales projects for Johnson & Johnson, McKesson and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

After a three years, a resolution has now been reached between all 50 state attorneys general, the District of Columbia and other territories of the U.S., with Publicis paying over $160 million (148 million euros), which will be included within the opioid relief effort.

In addition to developing and deploying deceptive marketing practices, the lawsuit also accused Publicis Health of helping to create a public nuisance of opioid use disorder, overdose and death. According to DC’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 2,504 people died from opioid use between Jan 1, 2017, and Oct. 31, 2023. 

The total payment of costs will reach $343 million, $130 million of which will be compensated by insurers. Around $7 million of that total will be legal fees, ADWEEK understands, while $213 million before tax was paid in the fourth quarter of last year too, Publicis Health revealed.

This multistate investigation into Publicis Health was led by Colorado and an executive committee including the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Idaho, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont.

A statement issued by the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia revealed that within the overall national settlement, the District of Columbia will receive $617,322.76. This is in addition to the millions of dollars it has already secured from companies responsible for the opioid crisis.

Publicis shall end any current projects, and will not accept any future briefs, promoting the use of any opioid substance.

“This settlement, in which the attorneys general recognized Publicis Health’s ‘good faith and responsible corporate citizenship,’ is in no way an admission of wrongdoing or liability. We will, if need be, defend ourselves against any litigation that this agreement does not resolve,” Publicis Groupe said in a statement.

“The work for pharmaceutical companies addressed by this settlement was at all times fully compliant with the law,” it continued, claiming that Rosetta was already working with opioid medication producers when acquired in 2011.

“We recognize the broader context in which that lawful work took place. The fight against the opioid crisis in the United States requires collaboration across industries, lawmakers and communities, and we are committed to playing our part. That is why we worked to reach this agreement, and why we are also reaffirming our long-standing decision to turn down any future opioid-related projects,” it concluded.

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