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Massachusetts sues French company, alleging it helped fuel US opioid crisis

Massachusetts sues French company, alleging it helped fuel US opioid crisis
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The state of Massachusetts sued the subsidiary of a France-based advertising conglomerate over its alleged role in the opioid abuse crisis.

A press release from Attorney General Maura Healey (D) indicated that a lawsuit filed by the state in Suffolk Superior Court accused Publicis Health, LLC, part of the Publicis Groupe, of partnering with Purdue Pharmaceuticals on marketing campaigns targeting doctors and urging them to prescribe more opioids to patients, downplaying the risks of the medications.

“Responsibility for the opioid crisis runs across the industry, from Purdue and the Sacklers, to consultants and partners like McKinsey and Publicis,” said Healey in a statement. “Publicis convinced doctors to prescribe more OxyContin to more patients as the opioid epidemic was raging. As a result, patients in Massachusetts suffered, overdosed, and died, while Publicis collected tens of millions of dollars.”

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The complaint alleges that Publicis partnered with Purdue to produce advertising campaigns bent on countering "prescribers’ hesitancy to prescribe OxyContin," as well as facilitating "the delivery of thousands of unfair and deceptive emails to prescribers, including messages designed to get doctors to convert more patients to OxyContin from lower dose, short-acting opioids."

Purdue Pharmaceuticals plead guilty last year to three federal criminal charges linked to the company's role in convincing doctors to prescribe shockingly high numbers of opioid medications to patients without regard for the risks carried by the addictive qualities of opioids. The plea came as part of an $8 billion settlement with the federal government.

The company is also set to be dissolved as part of the settlement.

Activists have called for Purdue's owners, the Sackler family, to face criminal charges over the extent of their contributions to the U.S. opioid abuse epidemic, warning that personally punishing executives is the only way to deter such abuse in the future.