OxyContin Marketer to Pay $350M to Avoid Lawsuits

An advertising agency, instrumental in crafting marketing campaigns for OxyContin and other prescription painkillers, along with a pharmaceutical company, has reached separate agreements totaling $500 million to avert a trial regarding their alleged role in the U.S. opioid crisis.

Publicis Health, a component of the Paris-based media conglomerate Publicis Groupe, committed to a $350 million settlement. A portion of this sum will be distributed to every state within the next two months, with the majority allocated to combat the overdose epidemic. Concurrently, Hikma Pharmaceuticals agreed to a $115 million cash settlement, coupled with supplying $35 million worth of an overdose reversal drug to state, local, and Native American tribal governments.

Publicis stands out as the first advertising company to reach a substantial settlement related to the impact of opioids in the U.S. Although facing a lawsuit in Massachusetts, the company settled with most states preemptively before facing formal court claims.

The New York Attorney General's office, leading negotiations with Publicis, disclosed that the advertising agency collaborated with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, from 2010 to 2019. During this period, Publicis contributed to campaigns promoting OxyContin and other prescription opioids, including Butrans and Hysingla. The materials emphasized the abuse-deterrent features of OxyContin and advocated for escalating patients' doses. Despite the formulation making it more difficult to misuse the drug for a quicker high, it did not diminish the addictive nature of the pills.

The Washington Attorney General revealed that Publicis supplied physicians with digital recorders, enabling the analysis of conversations between prescribers and patients regarding opioid usage.

As part of the settlement, Publicis agreed to release internal documents detailing its collaboration with Purdue and other companies involved in opioid manufacturing. The company clarified that the settlement does not imply an admission of wrongdoing. Publicis stated that most of the work covered by the settlement was conducted by Rosetta, a company owned by Publicis that ceased operations a decade ago. The company also reaffirmed its policy of refraining from taking new projects related to opioid products. Publicis mentioned that insurers would reimburse $130 million, with $7 million designated for covering legal fees incurred by the states.

London-based Hikma also emphasized that its settlement does not imply acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Numerous entities, including drugmakers, wholesalers, pharmacies, a consulting company, and a health data firm, have entered settlements over opioids with U.S. federal, state, and local governments, amounting to over $50 billion.

One of the most significant proposed settlements involves Purdue Pharma and state and local governments. As part of the agreement, members of the Sackler family, who own Purdue, would contribute up to $6 billion and relinquish ownership. The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing whether shielding family members from civil lawsuits is appropriate within this arrangement.

The opioid crisis has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans in successive waves. The crisis originated in 1996 with the introduction of OxyContin and was initially linked to prescription opioids. Subsequently, as measures against overprescribing and illicit pills intensified around 2010, heroin-related deaths surged. In recent years, opioids, particularly illicitly produced fentanyl, have been assoc

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