Nessel announces $350 million settlement with multinational marketing firm over role in opioid epidemic

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel 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. Michigan will receive nearly $11.7 million from the settlement to help address the opioid crisis.

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 build lasting infrastructure, and 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 or other Schedule II narcotics.

“The opioid crisis has devastated many communities through­out Michigan and across the entire country,” said Nessel. “As long as I am attorney general, I will do everything in my power to ensure companies like Publicis and all the others who fueled and profited from this epidemic are held accountable. The corporations who profited wildly from the devastating opioid epidemic must pay for prevention and remediation to assist the recovery of those impacted. The cost of this settlement to Publicis is nothing compared to the human cost these drugs have had on Michigan families and communities.”

The filings in the Wayne County Circuit Court 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 market OxyContin to providers in patient’s electronic health records.  

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, between the years 2000 and 2020, the opioid death rate in Michigan increased on average 13.9% each year. 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 the state, the impact of opioid addiction, substance use, and overdose deaths has torn families apart, damaged relationships, and devastated communities.

Colorado led the multistate group during this investigation and they are joined by attorneys general from all states, territories, and the District of Columbia.