On Thursday, consulting firm McKinsey & Company agreed to pay just under $600 million to account for its role in advising businesses on how to sell opioid painkillers even while the opioid crisis was occurring in the United States. Most of that money is part of a $573 million settlement that McKinsey reached with 47 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories, and Washington and West Virginia have each announced separate individual settlements with the company—Washington for $13.5 million and West Virginia for $10 million. The only state that has yet to announce a deal with McKinsey is Nevada, where the investigation of the consulting firm is still ongoing.
The opioid crisis is responsible for the deaths of over 470,000 people across the country, but the role McKinsey played in this epidemic only recently came to light during OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s attempts to settle claims made against their own company through bankruptcy court. Documents revealed that McKinsey worked with Purdue to boost opioid sales even after the scale of the national addiction crisis was becoming obvious, specifically encouraging Purdue sales representatives to target doctors who already prescribed high volumes of OxyContin.
In a statement released on Thursday addressing the settlement, McKinsey Global Managing Partner Kevin Sneader wrote:
“We deeply regret 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.”
McKinsey plans to pay out more than it made advising companies on opioid sales, says New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
“We are continuing to deliver on our promise to hold accountable the corporations and executives whose bad acts contributed to the opioid epidemic that has brought so much despair to our communities.”
According to North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, McKinsey worked for Purdue for 15 years. “McKinsey’s efforts worked. The number of pills prescribed, Purdue’s profits, and McKinsey’s fees all skyrocketed. But so did the number of overdoses.”
Stein said the settlement funds granted to North Carolina might go towards addiction treatment programs in health care settings and jails as well as needle exchanges and other efforts to reduce the risk of drug use.