As U.S. prosecutors go through document in an attempt to hold drug companies, distributors, and pharmacies accountable to the part they played in the U.S. opioid epidemic, emails uncover another bad faith actor. Purdue Pharma documents and emails reveal the drug company hired McKinsey & Company, a global consulting company, to provide marketing advice to ‘turbocharge’ sales of OxyContin, combat FDA opioid sales regulations, and combat bad press from families of opioid overdose victims.

In 2008, a year after Purdue Pharma plead guilty to misleading regulators, Purdue and several other drug companies hired McKinsey to help them push back on the FDA’s new required sales restrictions meant to curb the opioid crisis. McKinsey also assisted Purdue in countering the the “emotional message from mothers with teenagers that overdosed” on OxyContin.

The documents obtained also showed even as late as 2017 & 2018, well into the opioid crisis, McKinsey consultants were advising Purdue and the Sackler Family on how to “turbocharge” sales.

McKinsey advised Purdue to offer distributors rebates worth $14,810 for each customer that overdosed on the opioids. If 2,500 CVS customers overdosed on OxyContin in a year, then Purdue would pay $36.8 million directly to CVS. Representatives for CVS and Anthem, McKinsey’s biggest clients, say the companies never received the rebates.

As authorities began investigating and suing drug companies, distributors, pharmacies, and prescribing doctors; emails reveal that at McKinsey executives became concerned they may be held liable for the opioid epidemic as well, meetings were held, and suggestions to destroy incriminating documents were circulated.

Purdue pled guilty to criminal charges in October 2020 and agreed to pay an $8 billion fine. Critics of the plea deal believe Purdue was desperate to lock a deal in place while the Trump Administration was still in the Whitehouse.

President-elect Biden has released a plan to combat the opioid crisis that has only been made worse by the Covid epidemic. Maia Anderson, Becker’s Hospital Review, highlights Biden’s top five priorities for combating the crisis. One of which is holding drug companies accountable for their part in the epidemic. Yet to be seen is whether that will mean more criminal charges.

Corporation and their executives, have little incentive to change corporation behavior when the government continuously refuses to file criminal charges, and is still willing to work with these companies despite their unethical behavior. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy may publicly condemn McKinsey’s behavior, however he refuses to cut ties with the consulting firm despite public outcry to do so.


Becker’s Hospital Review, November 30, 2020

Biden’s plan to tackle the opioid epidemic: 5 things to know

President-elect Joe Biden released an initial plan earlier this month to tackle the opioid epidemic, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five things to know about Mr. Biden’s plan:

  1. His plan emphasizes new funding for substance abuse treatment and prevention and calls for the elimination of prison time for drug use alone. He plans to make a $125 billion federal investment to support effective prevention, treatment and recovery services. The money would come from raising taxes on the profits of drug companies. 
  1. Mr. Biden has tapped Rahul Gupta, MD, the former West Virginia public health commissioner, to lead the White House drug office’s transition team. Dr. Gupta’s approach to identifying populations at high risk for drug overdose has served as a national model, according to Politico.
  1. He plans to direct the U.S. Justice Department to make drug companies’ role in fueling the opioid crisis a top investigative priority. He will also ask the Drug Enforcement Administration to step up efforts to identify suspicious shipments of drugs and ban drugmakers from providing payments or incentives to physicians and other prescribers. 
  1. Mr. Biden said expanding the Affordable Care Act to achieve universal coverage will help make sure prevention, treatment and recovery services are available to everyone. 
  1. His plans also emphasize the need to work with other countries to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S. He said fentanyl should be a top priority in the U.S. dealings with China.

Find his full plans here.


McKinsey Proposed Paying Pharmacy Companies Rebates for OxyContin Overdoses, New York Times, November 27, 2020

McKinsey consultants proposed Purdue offer rebates for opioid overdoses: NYT, Fierce Pharma, November 30, 2020

Murphy appears to stick with consultant McKinsey despite ‘sickening’ details of opioid work,, November 30, 2020