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McKinsey&Company Settles Opioid Claims for $573 Million 

By Emelia Sprott

McKinsey & Company, a powerhouse corporate consulting firm, has agreed to a $573 million settlement over its role in marketing and promoting the sale of highly addictive opioids amid the ongoing opioid crisis in America. Attorneys general from 47 states, as well as the District of Columbia and five territories, made the deal with McKinsey. Additionally, two other states which did not sign onto the agreement, Washington and West Virginia, made separate deals with the firm. 


Opioids once drove profits for pharmaceutical producers and distributors. However, they are now the driving force behind an epidemic that has resulted in the deaths of upwards of 400,000 Americans in the last 20 years. 


“We deeply regret that we did not adequately acknowledge the tragic consequences of the epidemic unfolding in our communities,” said McKinsey global managing partner Kevin Sneader in a statement regarding the settlement. “With this agreement, we hope to be part of the solution to the opioid crisis in the U.S.” 


The agreement was reached after overwhelming evidence, including planning documents and emails between McKinsey executives, proved that the firm worked with pharmaceutical giant Purdue to stimulate the sale of the highly addictive drug OxyContin. Despite Purdue’s guilty plea to federal criminal charges in 2007 for providing misinformation to doctors and regulators of the risks of the drug, McKinsey encouraged a focus on its sale . 


In one such email, McKinsey executive Martin Elling wrote, “Just saw in the FT [Financial Times] that Judy Lewent is being sued by the states [sic] attorneys general for her role on the Purdue board. It probably makes sense to have a quick conversation with the risk committee to see if we should be doing anything other that [sic] eliminating all our documents and emails.”


An email such as this is particularly condemning as it indicates a clear understanding of wrongdoing and fear of prosecution by the McKinsey firm long before their criminal proceedings. 


The resolution halts many state attorneys generals’ threats of civil lawsuits. A condition of the settlement includes that McKinsey need not admit guilt. The firm did, however, agree to mandated restrictions on work with several types of addictive drugs and to make thousands of documents related to their work with opioids publicly accessible. 


In an apology statement released in December 2020, McKinsey said: “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.” This statement was released prior to the settlement.


A bulk of the funds paid in the settlement will be devoted to opioid addiction treatment and prevention programs. 


More than a dozen other American companies are in the midst of legal proceedings regarding their role in the opioid crisis.

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