Consulting firm McKinsey & Co has agreed to pay $230 million in its latest settlement to resolve lawsuits alleging it fueled a US opioid epidemic through its role advising drug manufacturers, according to court documents filed Tuesday.
Thousands of lawsuits, brought by US local governments, schools, Native American communities, and parents on behalf of children born with withdrawal symptoms, accused McKinsey of strategizing with drug manufacturers to aggressively market prescription opioids “to maximize opioid revenues”, the filings showed.
McKinsey will pay $207 million to resolve claims by counties and municipalities, and $23 million to resolve claims by public school districts.
Opioids are the main cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with more than 75 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2021 linked to them.
McKinsey had already paid more than $640 million in 2021 to resolve lawsuits raised by 50 state attorneys-general over its work for bankrupt OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and others.
Tuesday’s court filing said McKinsey had created and implemented marketing strategies for Purdue “before and after” the manufacturer’s first guilty plea in 2007 relating to misbranding of OxyContin.
The settlement still requires a judge’s approval.
McKinsey has consistently maintained its past work was lawful, but firm has said it ceased to advise clients on opioid-related business in 2019.
“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,” it said in a statement released in in 2020.
“That is why last year (2019) we stopped doing any work on opioid-specific business, anywhere in the world.”
Last month, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge by the Justice Department to Purdue’s $6 billion bankruptcy settlement, throwing into question the deal that protected the company’s Sackler family owners from future lawsuits over their role in the opioid epidemic.