Michigan gets over $11.5M in drug advertising settlement

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — An advertising agency has agreed to pay $350 million in a settlement with U.S. states over its marketing role in the American opioid epidemic.

From the settlement with Publicis Health, Michigan will get almost $11.7 million, which the state will use to help address the opioid crisis, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Thursday.

“The corporations who profited wildly from the devastating opioid epidemic must pay for prevention and remediation to assist the recovery of those impacted,” Nessel said.

Between 2000-2020, the opioid death rate in Michigan increased by an average of 13.9% each year, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

According to CBS News, Publicis Health is the first advertising company that has reached a major settlement over the toll of the opioid epidemic in the United States.

Publicis said in a statement, “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.”

The company went on to say “We will, if need be, defend ourselves against any litigation that this agreement does not resolve.”

Publicis also claimed that the work for the pharmaceutical companies was primarily the role of Rosetta, a small agency that closed 10 years ago, “that was already working with pharmaceutical clients that manufactured opioid medication when it was acquired 13 years ago in 2011.”

The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, who led the negotiations with Publicis, said Publicis had worked with Purdue Pharma from 2010-2019, assisting campaigns for OxyContin, Butrans and Hysingla.

According to James’ office, the campaigns that Publicis helped produce had played up OxyContin’s abuse-deterrent properties and promoted increasing patients’ doses.

Jen Trejo holds a photo of her son Christopher as she is comforted outside the Supreme Court Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, in Washington. Her son was 32 when he died and she said about Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, "You can't just kill my child and just pay a fine." The Supreme Court is wrestling with a nationwide settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma that would shield members of the Sackler family who own the company from civil lawsuits over the toll of opioids. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

Michigan AG Nessel said that the death rate caused by opioids, as well as the impacts on thousands who have been addicted to opioids, have “created considerable costs for our health care, child welfare, and criminal justice systems.”

Court documents from Wayne County Circuit Court describe how Publicis Health helped Purdue Pharma develop sales tactics that relied on data from recordings of personal in-office conversations between patients and health providers, according to the AG.

Nessel said the company was also involved in Purdue’s decision “to market OxyContin to providers in patients’ electronic health records.”

Michigan announces $80 million for opioids crisis response

“The cost of this settlement to Publicis is nothing compared to the human cost these drugs have had on Michigan families and communities,” Nessel said.

Publicis Health said in its statement that it is “reaffirming our long-standing decision to turn down any future opioid-related projects.”

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