The global consulting giant McKinsey & Co. has agreed to settle claims worth $573 million for its part in offering advice to companies that made highly addictive painkillers — those pills that helped spur the nation’s lingering and deadly opioid epidemic.
“As we look back at our client service during the opioid crisis,” the company, which no longer works with opioid-specific businesses, said on its website. “We recognize that we did not adequately acknowledge the epidemic unfolding in our communities or the terrible impact of opioid misuse and addiction on millions of families across the country.”
The $573 million will settle claims brought by 47 states that claim the company’s marketing advice to companies like Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson helped “turbocharge” the epidemic.
“McKinsey advised Purdue on how to maximize profits from its opioid products,” according to the suit brought by Colorado, “including targeting high-volume opioid prescribers, using specific messaging to get physicians to prescribe more OxyContin to more patients, and circumventing pharmacy restrictions in order to deliver high-dose prescriptions.”
Much of the money will go to state programs to fight opioid addiction.
“From 1999–2018, almost 450,000 people died from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC).
They are the first company to work with the states to fix the problem…Phil Weiser
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who was involved in the negotiations, applauded McKinsey’s actions, which include disclosing on a public website tens of thousands of internal documents detailing its work with opioid producers.
“They are the first company to work with the states to fix the problem rather than deny their conduct and engage in protracted litigation or delay,” Weiser said. “Their approach provides a model for other companies to follow to focus our energy on fixing the problem rather than making excuses or blaming others. The partners who tried to cover up their actions placed profit over responsible behavior and acted reprehensibly.”
In a statement, McKinsey insisted its “past work was lawful” and that it wanted to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
“We deeply regret that we did not adequately acknowledge the tragic consequences of the epidemic unfolding in our communities,” Kevin Sneader, global managing partner of McKinsey, said. “With this agreement, we hope to be part of the solution to the opioid crisis in the U.S.”
Most of the money will be paid out over the next two months. California said it will get about $60 million, Colorado about $10 million, North Carolina $19 million, Delaware $2.58 million, and the rest will be doled out to the other 43 states that signed on to the settlement.
Meanwhile, negotiations with opioid makers continue. Talks continue on a proposed $26 billion settlement with opioid distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Johnson & Johnson. Purdue has agreed to an $8.3 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department in which the drug maker will plead guilty to three felonies over its OxyContin marketing.