Newly public documents in state opioid case shine light on covert public relations campaign

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter obtained documents that show Purdue Pharma created a covert misinformation campaign with a public relations firm that attacked several attorneys general who had either filed lawsuits or were considering filing lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, and attempted to shift blame for the growing opioid crisis to victims of opioid addiction.

The documents were previously confidential in the state’s case against the nation’s leading opioid manufacturers, but Attorney General Hunter said the documents are proof of Purdue’s attempt to cover up the epidemic.

“The company’s actions are absolutely appalling,” Attorney General Hunter said. “These documents are damning evidence showing Purdue executives were more interested in spreading propaganda than stopping the death toll from rising and fixing the problem they created. Although there was strong suspicion Purdue was engaging in these deceitful acts, seeing it in black and white is unnerving. The documents should also give attorneys general from around the country insight into the lengths this company is going to sabotage their reputations and assault the integrity of their offices.”

In a June 2017 memo to Purdue officials, titled “Confidential Program Recommendation,” Matt Well, a founding partner of the Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm The Herald Group, details a campaign that included attacks on undisclosed attorneys general. The attacks were intended to deter other states from suing the company.

“Our goal is to make state attorneys general think twice about joining the litigation,” Well wrote in the proposal.

Other recommendations included targeting outside law firms hired to help in the cases by calling into question the attorneys’ credibility and personal profit motive.

The final recommendation included working with journalists and placing stories in specific publications to tell what the firm labeled “the anti-story”. The anti-story refers to the public relations firm finding legal experts to talk to reporters or write op-eds for publications that slam lawsuits filed by states and shift the blame for the epidemic to victims in an attempt to sway public opinion to the company’s favor.

To read the documents, click here.

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