In a first-of-its-kind settlement, Utah will get millions from company that promoted OxyContin

By: Kyle Dunphey, Utah News Dispatch

Utah is expected to receive about $4 million from a health marketing company that allegedly helped Purdue Pharma sell opioids, the first settlement of its kind.

On Monday, the Utah Attorney General’s Office announced a $350 million national settlement with Publicis Health, a health care marketing and communications company that “encouraged, facilitated, and supported misrepresentations about the risks and benefits of opioid products” on behalf of Purdue Pharma.

That’s according to documents filed in Summit County’s 3rd District Court on Thursday, which describe how Publicis “was Purdue’s number one marketing partner, serving as Purdue’s ‘agency of record.’”

The company helped market Purdue-branded opioid products like OxyContin, Butrans and Hysingla, according to court documents.

“Publicis’s projects covered all aspects of Purdue’s marketing and sales, including designing sales strategies and tactics, maximizing the reach and influence of Purdue’s sales force, using electronic media, designing content, developing promotional messaging, drafting scripts and other materials for Purdue sales representatives,” reads a complaint filed by the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

That includes targeting prescribers who would be most likely to “prescribe large amounts of opioids.”

The settlement also requires Publicis cease all marketing “related to opioid-based Schedule II or other Schedule II narcotics.”

Of the $350 million Publicis will pay out, $3.93 million is coming to Utah, according to court records. Utah has received about $495 million in opioid settlements to date, according to data from the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

At the state level, the Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee decides what to do with money received through settlements. Additional funds are divided up among counties, which choose where that money goes.

Most settlement money is required to fund abatement strategies, which include things like training and distribution of naloxone, medical assisted treatment programs, public awareness campaigns and housing support for people in recovery.

A press release from the Utah Attorney General’s Office says that money will help the “hardest-hit communities deal with the opioid crisis, build lasting infrastructure, and save lives.”

“No amount of money will ever restore the precious lives lost or destroyed by the greed of opioid manufacturers and those who helped market these drugs to an unsuspecting public. But, hopefully these funds will help Utahns access treatment, recovery and prevent many more from ever becoming trapped in the vicious cycle of opioid addiction,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement.

According to the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, at least 4,800 Utahns have died after overdosing from a prescription opioid in the last 20 years

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