District Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb announced a $350 million multistate settlement with Publicis Health, one of the largest healthcare advertising companies, due to national claims alleging that the company created 鈥渄eceptive and aggressive marketing campaigns for opioid drugs.鈥

Filed by multiple state Attorneys General, the national settlement details Publicis Health鈥檚 misleading marketing campaigns promoting OxyContin and various prescription painkillers as effective for medical conditions that the medications were never technically proven to treat.  Further, the company pushed incentive programs to extend the length and increasing doses of opioid prescriptions, inevitably creating greater addiction issues for consumers.

Currently, D.C. is working to address a public emergency on the opioid crisis, largely led by the Mayor鈥檚 inaugural opioid abatement commission. With the national settlement, the District will receive a payout of $617,322 to add to the funds previously secured from other companies deemed responsible for the city鈥檚 opioid crisis.

鈥淭oo many D.C. residents are struggling with opioid use disorder, and hundreds of members of our community tragically lose their lives to opioid overdoses and fentanyl poisoning each year,鈥 Schwalb said in a statement released from the Office of the Attorney General.  鈥淭his multistate litigation and settlement holds Publicis accountable for its role in worsening and profiting from the opioid epidemic – and it adds more than $600,000 to the $83 million the Office of the Attorney General has secured through settlements with other companies responsible for this crisis.鈥

In efforts to correct the company鈥檚 hand in the opioid epidemic, the $350 million from Publicis Health will be distributed to every U.S. state and territory used toward localized opioid relief efforts. 

The opioid crisis has ravaged teenage and adult populations across the country, making dangerous waves in local high schools and residential communities within the D.C. Metropolitan area alike.  Throughout the District, opioid-related fatal overdoses have more than doubled from 213 to roughly 461 deaths each year— disproportionately affecting Black men and residents residing in wards 5, 7 & 8.

Meanwhile, the crisis has taken a deadlier turn with fentanyl analogs penetrating the illicit drug market in the District, and nationwide. According to an updated report released by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in 2016, 62% of overdose cases contained the presence of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.  The numbers have drastically increased since, maintaining a 90 percentile range since 2019.  Fentanyl or fentanyl analogs were found in 98% of overdose cases by the close of 2023.

Data tracking through October 2023 documents a total of 427 opioid-related fatal overdoses in the city, with overdose rates averaging 42 deaths per month.聽 Based on the growing rates, numbers are expected to exceed 2022鈥檚 total of 461 fatal overdoses, with roughly 85% of all opioid deaths being among Black Washingtonians.聽

Despite the sizable payouts and damaging allegations towards one of the country鈥檚 most fatal epidemics, Publicis Health maintains denial of ill practice. 

鈥淭his settlement, in which the Attorneys General recognized Publicis Health鈥檚 鈥榞ood faith and responsible corporate citizenship,鈥 is in no way an admission of wrongdoing or liability.  We will, if need be, defend ourselves against any litigation that this agreement does not resolve.鈥

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