Attorney General Neronha secures $1.53 million in settlement with Publicis Health for the firm’s role in fueling the opioid epidemic

Published on Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha today announced a $1.5 million settlement with Publicis Health to resolve investigations into the global marketing and communications firm’s role in the prescription opioid crisis. Rhode Island’s settlement is part of a larger national settlement totaling $350 million.

To date, Attorney General Neronha has recovered more than $330 million in cash and lifesaving medication for Rhode Island in settlements with opioid manufacturers, distributors, and consultants who advised those companies. All funds recovered through Rhode Island’s opioid settlements must be used for opioid treatment, prevention, and recovery efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

The settlement funds will go into Rhode Island’s Statewide Opioid Abatement Fund, which is administered by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) with the guidance of the Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee, to ensure that the funds are used to address the ongoing impact of the opioid epidemic in the State.

“True justice here means holding accountable every person and entity with blood on their hands,” said Attorney General Neronha. “Publicis Health used deceptive tactics to market dangerous narcotics to the masses. And while no amount of money will ever be enough to undo the harm caused to Rhode Islanders and their families, through all of these settlements, we can continue to fund desperately needed resources for treatment, prevention, and recovery efforts.”

The filing in Providence Superior Court describes how Publicis’ work contributed to the crisis by helping Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers market and sell opioids. As alleged, Publicis had a Master Services Agreement (MSA) with Purdue from 2010 through 2021, under which Publicis was paid over $70 million. Court documents detail how Publicis acted as Purdue’s agency of record for all its branded opioid drugs, including OxyContin. Publicis designed sales strategies and tactics, designed content, developed promotional messaging, and drafted scripts and other materials for use by Purdue sales representatives in their interactions with prescribers. As one example of the manipulative tactics used by Publicis, the firm used information from audio recordings of private conversations between patients and providers to understand and overcome patient hesitancy to using opioids. 

The settlement’s injunctive terms require that Publicis no longer take on clients to market, promote, or advertise opioids or opioid-based controlled substances and that they produce opioid related documents to be made publicly available.

Additional information about the Attorney General’s efforts to address the actions of manufacturers, distributors, and others responsible for the opioid epidemic is available at the Attorney General’s website here