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Attorney General Ellison announces $350 million settlement with multinational marketing firm Publicis over role in opioid epidemic

Brings Minnesota’s total in opioid settlements to $564M

February 2, 2024 (SAINT PAUL) – Attorney General Ellison today announced a $350 million national settlement with Publicis Health to resolve investigations into the global marketing and communications firm’s role in the prescription opioid crisis. Minnesota will receive roughly $4,450,000 from the settlement to help address the opioid crisis.

This brings the total Minnesota has recovered in opioid-related settlements to $564 million.

In agreeing to the terms of the settlement, Publicis recognized the harm its conduct caused, and the agreement will give communities hit hardest by the opioid crisis more financial support for treatment and recovery to save lives. The company will also 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 drugs and Schedule III controlled substances.

“It is hard to overstate the suffering that Publicis and corporations like them, who lined their pockets by pushing dangerous and addictive opioids, caused Minnesotans,” said Attorney General Ellison. “While today’s settlement cannot undo that damage, it is important to hold them accountable. This settlement adds to the considerable sums that are dedicated for treatment, abatement, and prevention of the opioid epidemic in every corner of Minnesota. As your Attorney General, I will continue doing everything in my power to hold the architects of the opioid epidemic accountable.”

The filings in Ramsey County describe how Publicis’ work contributed to the crisis by helping Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers market and sell opioids. Court documents detail how Publicis acted as Purdue’s agency of record for all its branded opioid drugs, including OxyContin, even developing sales tactics that relied on farming data from recordings of personal health-related in-office conversations between patients and providers. The company was also instrumental in Purdue’s decision to place automatic alerts in medical records software that would encourage healthcare providers to prescribe Purdue’s opioid products to patients with pain problems.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, more than 6,000 Minnesotans have died from opioid overdoses since 2010. These deaths — and the impacts on thousands who have struggled with opioid addiction — have created considerable costs for our health care, child welfare, and criminal justice systems. More significant than the dollars and cents in damage to our state, the impact of opioid addiction, substance use, and overdose deaths have torn families apart, damaged relationships, and devastated communities.

Continuing Minnesota’s string of settlements with opioid companies

This settlement is the latest action Attorney General Ellison has taken to combat the opioid crisis and to hold accountable those responsible for creating and fueling the crisis.

In July 2021, the Attorney General’s Office joined historic $26 billion multistate settlement agreements with pharmaceutical distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, and opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.

Attorney General Ellison’s office has also reached opioid-related settlements with opioid manufacturers Teva and Allergan and pharmacies CVS and Walgreens in June 2023, manufacturer Endo in August 2022, Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue in July 2021, international consultancy McKinsey in February 2021, manufacturer Mallinckrodt in October 2020, and manufacturer Insys in January 2020.

In December 2021, the Attorney General’s Office reached an agreement with Minnesota cities and counties on how funds from these settlements will be allocated: 75% to counties and cities, and 25% to the State. The agreement also details how the funds can be used to combat the opioid crisis, including detailed programs and strategies focused on treatment, prevention, and harm reduction.


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