Ad giant Publicis paying $350 million to settle U.S. opioid crisis claims


A sign for Publicis Groupe SA is seen at their headquarters in Paris, France, on Sunday, July 28, 2013. 

Balint Porneczi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The health-care division of French ad giant Publicis agreed to pay $350 million to settle claims that its past marketing efforts for drugmakers helped fuel America’s opioid crisis, U.S. state attorneys general announced Thursday.

The agreement marks the latest payout related to the prescription pill addiction epidemic, following settlements with top drug companies totaling tens of billions of dollars.

Publicis Health said it will distribute $343 million of its total charge among all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and five U.S. territories.

“The full settlement amount should quickly and directly contribute to the States’ opioid relief effort,” Publicis Health said in a statement.

The group does not admit wrongdoing or liability as part of the settlement, which resulted from three years of negotiations. But, its statement said, “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,” the statement said.

Publicis Health noted that $130 million of its payment to the states has been compensated by its insurers. After tax, the total charge amounts to $160 million in cash, the group said.

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“For a decade, Publicis helped opioid manufacturers like Purdue Pharma convince doctors to overprescribe opioids, directly fueling the opioid crisis and causing the devastation of communities nationwide,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, a co-leader of the nationwide coalition, in a press release.

“No amount of money can compensate for lives lost and addiction suffered, but with this agreement, Publicis will cease their illegal behavior and pay $350 million to help our communities rebuild,” James said.

New York will receive nearly $19.2 million from the total agreement, according to the state’s consent order with Publicis Health.

The highest settlement amounts were allocated to California, Florida and Texas, which respectively received $34.4 million, $24.1 million and $21.6 million.

The states acknowledged that Publicis worked with them in “good faith” with “responsible corporate citizenship” to reach the settlement.

Publicis Health noted that its work for drug companies addressed in this settlement was mostly done by a firm it owned called Rosetta, which shuttered a decade earlier.

That work “was at all times fully compliant with the law,” Publicis Health’s statement said.

And Rosetta’s work “was used solely with healthcare providers, not consumers, using communication tools and language expressly approved by” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it said.

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