McKinsey to pay $573M to 47 states, D.C. to settle role in opioid epidemic

A collection of 47 states and the District of Columbia reached a settlement with McKinsey to settle allegations over the consulting firm's role in the opioid epidemic. (Getty/BackyardProduction)

The major consulting firm McKinsey & Co. agreed to pay $573 million to 47 states and the District of Columbia to settle allegations over its role in the opioid epidemic.

The settlement announced Thursday is the latest against actors in the epidemic. A collection of states and localities reached a settlement with pharmaceutical manufacturer Mallinckrodt last year. The money from the McKinsey settlement will be used by states and localities to abate the opioid epidemic.

States charged that McKinsey contributed to the opioid crisis by promoting marketing schemes and consulting services for opioid manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, maker of the popular opioid Oxycontin for more than a decade.

“McKinsey & Company was a player in this unfolding opioids tragedy,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a statement. Becerra is Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

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California’s legal complaint said that McKinsey advised Purdue on the ways to maximize profits from opioids, including strategies on targeting high-volume prescribers and developed messaging to get physicians to prescribe more Oxycontin, according to a release from the attorney general.

“When states began to sue Purdue’s directors for their implementation of McKinsey’s marketing schemes, McKinsey partners began corresponding about deleting documents and e-mails related to their work for Purdue,” the release said.

The agreement calls for McKinsey to prepare a trove of internal documents on its work with Purdue Pharma. The firm also agreed to adopt a document retention plan and continue to investigate “allegations that two of its partners tried to destroy documents in response to investigations of Purdue Pharma,” the release said.

The consulting firm said in a statement that it deeply regrets "that we did not adequately acknowledge the tragic consequences of the epidemic unfolding in our communities. With this agreement, we hope to be part of the solution to the opioid crisis in the U.S."

This is the latest legal action over the opioid epidemic. Last December, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Walmart and alleged the retail giant “unlawfully” distributed opioids at the height of the epidemic.