May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022 – Documents showing McKinsey & Company encouraged Purdue Pharma to pay out thousands in rebates per opioid overdose raise ethical red flags for the global consulting firm, but advice without implementation falls short of breaking the law, attorneys say.

Cash prizes and “unrivaled recognition” were among the perks McKinsey suggested to Purdue salespeople as part of a strategy to ramp up prescriptions for the highly addictive pain medication OxyContin, according to internal documents highlighted as part a congressional investigation. Attorneys say such actions may simply amount to callous advice without proof of a conspiracy or that they directly contributed to opioid deaths.

In 2017, over 71,000 people were predicted to have died from an overdose in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In documents dated December same year, McKinsey laid out the “stronger than ever” headwinds swirling around Purdue. It detailed a plan for providing rebates to pharmacy benefit managers—liaisons between drug companies and health insurers that run patients’ prescription benefits—”based on actual incidence” of overdoses or opioid use disorder related to OxyContin.

But “even though the recommendation looks fairly gross on its face,” McKinsey was “tasked with fleshing out what could be, they are not enacting anything, they are in an advisory capacity,” said Rachel Fiset, a health-care lawyer at Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman LLP.

“It feels incredibly unethical,” Fiset said. But “it’s not illegal. It is an analysis of how [Purdue] could get their drugs sold.”

When it comes to litigation, attorneys have cast their net far and wide in trying to hold actors accountable for America’s opioid crisis.

But while McKinsey’s conduct has caused alarm, it’s ultimately the pharmaceutical companies doling out the opioids, attorneys say.

“Someone may try to loop them into a civil suit, but ultimately it is not McKinsey that is disseminating the drugs,” Fiset said.

Read the entire article at bloomberglaw.com

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Lopez in Washington at ilopez@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alexis Kramer at akramer@bloomberglaw.com

https://news.bloomberglaw.com/health-law-and-business/mckinseys-ghoulish-opioid-sales-advice-holds-legal-ground