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State receives $5.7M in national opioids settlement with Publicis

Money part of a $350 million national settlement
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Attorney General Phil Weiser 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. Colorado will receive nearly $5.7 million from the settlement to help address the state’s 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, building lasting infrastructure, and saving 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 Schedule III controlled substances.

“I appreciate Publicis’ acknowledgment of the harm their actions caused the people and communities hurt by the opioid epidemic,” Weiser said. “Like other companies who contributed to lost and ruined lives, Publicis placed profit ahead of responsible behavior and aided the efforts of Purdue Pharma and others that marketed addictive drugs. By agreeing to this settlement, Publicis is taking responsibility for its actions and is supporting the nationwide effort to address this crisis.”

Today’s filings in Denver District 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 on patient’s electronic health records.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, more than 9,600 Coloradans have died from a prescription opioid overdose over the last 20 years. 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 our state, the impact on opioid addition, substance use, and overdose deaths have torn families apart, damaged relationships, and devastated communities.

Today’s filing is the latest action Weiser and his office have taken to combat the opioid crisis and to hold accountable those responsible for creating and fueling the crisis. To date, Colorado has secured over $750 million in legal settlements with drug manufacturers and others for their roles in the crisis. Weiser also leads the statewide response to the crisis, convening the Colorado Opioid Abatement Council—a multi-regional intergovernmental body that provides oversight of opioids funds of 19 regional councils to ensure the distribution of those funds complies with the approved uses outlined.

Last year, Colorado received the Excellence in the Application of Opioid Litigation Principles Award from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for the state’s planning and regional collaboration, which provided a detailed roadmap of evidence-based strategies that Colorado regions can use to address the opioid epidemic.

Colorado led the multistate group during this investigation and was joined on an executive committee by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Idaho, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont. They are joined by the attorneys general from all states, territories, and the District of Columbia.