Crime & Justice

Purdue Health ad agency to pay $350 million for opioid crisis in US

New York, US, Feb 1 (EFE).- Publicis Health, part of the French advertising giant Publicis Groupe, which developed marketing strategies for the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, producer of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, agreed on Thursday to pay $350 million for its role in the opioid crisis in the United States.

The decision was announced in a statement by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who in 2019 filed the nation’s largest lawsuit to hold more than a dozen manufacturers and distributors responsible for the opioid crisis, most of which negotiated multimillion-dollar deals to avoid trial.

Publicis Health was the first advertising company to negotiate to settle all allegations against it regarding the opioid crisis.

Between 2010 and 2019, Publicis developed marketing campaigns and promotional materials for OxyContin and other addictive painkillers such as Butrans and Hysingla.

The agency created advertisements and materials, such as pamphlets and brochures, that promoted OxyContin as safe and not subject to abuse when that wasn’t true, the US Attorney’s Office said.

Among other things, Publicis developed a strategy, devised by the consulting firm McKinsey, also a defendant in the case, that targeted doctors who prescribed the most OxyContin, who were “inundated” with messages about the supposed benefits of increasing patients’ doses, often unnecessarily.

Despite admitting no wrongdoing in the crisis, Publicis said in a statement that it recognized “the broader context in which that lawful work took place.”

In fact, Publicis noted that most of that work was done by a subsidiary called Rosetta, which closed a decade ago.

London-listed Hikma also reached an agreement to settle state and local claims for $150 million, while also denying any wrongdoing.

McKinsey & Co. agreed to pay $573 million in 2021 for its own role in promoting Purdue’s drugs.

The mega-suit over the opioid crisis opened in New York and included dozens of companies led by Purdue Pharma, which filed for bankruptcy in September 2019.

The founders and owners of the company, the Sackler family, negotiated that in exchange for giving up ownership of the drugmaker and contributing up to $6 billion to fight the crisis, they would receive immunity from any civil suits and could potentially keep billions of dollars from their profits from OxyContin sales, an issue that is still tied up in the courts after facing opposition from some states.

The funds derived from this mega lawsuit amount to $50 billion and will be used to alleviate the ravages of addiction, according to the PBS channel. EFE

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