McKinsey, a consulting firm that worked for Purdue Pharma, Oxycontin’s creator, has been under the microscope. This week, they agreed to pay the government 574 million dollars for their actions that helped cause the opioid epidemic. The company worked with Purdue to create new strategies meant to “turbocharge sales” and admitted no harm but agreed to pay out the settlement. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the firm had been “part of a machine that… destroyed lives”.
The Accusations Against McKinsey
McKinsey is accused of advising Purdue to pressure doctors through sales calls, especially targeting doctors who were already known to be “high-level prescribers.” In doing so, they also asked sales associates to be careful to subvert the authorities. Their goal was simply to help doctors avoid prescribing limits that states were trying to uphold.
When higher-ups at McKinsey realized that they were part of the Oxycontin investigations relating to billions of dollars in lawsuits over the opioid epidemic, they made efforts to hide their involvement.
Hiding Their Involvement in Oxy
McKinsey knew that they were about to be part of an investigation, so they asked associates to help cover their trial. They discussed the options available, including deleting documents that dated back to 2004. (The discussions took place in 2019.)
“McKinsey’s cynical and calculated marketing tactics helped fuel the opioid crisis by helping Purdue Pharma target those doctors they knew would overprescribe opioids,” New York Attorney General Letitia James told reporters about the settlement. “They knew where the money was coming from and zeroed in on it.”
Not Just Helping Purdue
While Purdue was the investigation’s focus, state attorneys found that McKinsey’s services for Purdue were not unique. The model of pushing drugs onto doctors to increase prescriptions is one they have pushed for many other companies. Their goal is to help pharmaceutical companies pursue profit for their various patents.
The company shows one of the main problems with healthcare based on profit. Medical ethics seem to disappear when marketing companies get involved. And there seems to be little problem for these companies when they find out the product they are pushing can be deadly.
Until the laws change, oversight will fall to the government and watchdog groups. Hopefully, new regulations can help prevent these situations from happening with an addictive drug in the future but don’t bet the farm on that.