Massachusetts is suing Publicis Groupe for commercializing OxyContin

AG Maura Healey files lawsuit against the marketing group for allegedly fueling the opioid crisis.

Massachusetts is suing a unit of French advertising firm Publicis Groupe SA, stating that the company is partially responsible for fueling the US opioid crisis by using misleading marketing practices to help Purdue Pharma sell OxyContin. Attorney General Maura Healey said Publicis “created a public nuisance from 2010 to 2019 by campaigning drug manufacturers to convince doctors to prescribe more opioids, even for patients who didn’t need them.”

Publicis Groupe companies currently include Digitas Health, Heartbeat, Insync, Langland, Payer Sciences, the PlowShare Group, Publicis Health France, Publicis Health Media, Razorfish Health, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness and Verilogue. In 2016, Publicis suggested that Purdue shut down its sales force to “take on deeper responsibility,” Healey said. Still, the company continued to accept money from the drug manufacturer. In total, the company made more than $ 50 million working with Purdue.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

“They knew what they were doing was wrong, they made the opioid crisis worse, and they kept cashing Purdue’s checks,” Healey said. “What they did was wrong. It hurt people. It killed people. Today’s lawsuit reveals important new information about the wrongdoing that caused the opioid crisis, and it is another step in bringing accountability to the Massachusetts families who have been injured. “

A Publicis spokesman replied that there was “no legal basis for the lawsuit,” referring to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

However, the attorney general insisted, “Responsibility for the opioid crisis extends across the industry, from Purdue and the Sacklers to consultants and partners like McKinsey and Publicis.” Healey accused the company of “unprecedented greed and exploitation”.

The state’s complaint reads: “The Publicis Groupe has helped publicly disrupt opioid use disorder, overdose and death. Publicis ‘programs have countered the objective of counteracting public health measures aimed at reducing unnecessary opioid use as the increased opioid use generates more profits for Publicis’ opioid customers. “

Amanda Pustilnik of the Law, Brain and Behavior Center at Massachusetts General Hospital explains, “The history of the opioid epidemic is often misrepresented as the story of irresponsible patients and overprescribing doctors. But that law enforcement is at the heart of the matter. Patients and doctors, on average, were not irresponsible. They acted under the influence of a concerted plan of misinformation and over-funding that coordinated the supply chain for these drugs up and down. “

In February of this year, consulting firm McKinsey & Co. agreed to pay $ 573 million to clarify the allegations involved in the opioid crisis. Medical records company Practice Fusion admitted it was part of a criminal conspiracy and agreed to pay the U.S. government $ 145 million in 2020. This shows the complex web of defendants who are allegedly involved in sparking the crisis.

Deputy Attorney General Jenny Wojewoda said the lawsuit seeks civil sanctions and reimbursements for victims, but stated, “We have not set a damage figure.” She added, “But they are immense. It would certainly be a significant amount of money. “

Since 2010, around 15,000 people have died of overdose in Massachusetts alone. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the U.S. from 1999 to 2019

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