Consultancy giant McKinsey played a “pivotal role” in the US opioid crisis by helping Purdue Pharma “turbocharge” sales of opioid painkiller Oxycontin whilst working for US drug regulators, a Congressional report has said.
The multi-billion-dollar consulting firm helped Purdue develop strategies to boost sales of its addictive painkiller, by advising the firm to offer its sales reps cash rewards for selling more opioids, new documents show.
The consultancy also said Purdue Pharma should seek to create a “spirit of competition” by launching “weekly league tables” in recognition of “top performers,” according to the committe.
McKinsey told Purdue it should pay rebates for every overdose caused by their pills, as a means of limiting negative press and ensuring its painkillers stayed on the market.
The consultancy was also accused of failing to disclose conflicts of interest, whilst working for both Purdue Pharma and US pharmaceutical regulators.
McKinsey was paid $140m (£112m) in fees by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2008 and 2022, while the firm also worked with Purdue Pharma on various subjects ranging from its sales strategy to regulatory advice.
The US federal government paid McKinsey $956.2m in fees between January 2006 and March 2019, while the consultancy also reaped millions in fees from opioid producers.
Committee members claimed McKinsey learnt the inner workings of the FDA and used their “insider knowledge” to help Purdue fight the watchdog’s “safety requirements”.
The committee accused the “secretive” consulting firm of hiding behind client confidentiality agreements, as it demanded answers from “one of the most evasive” consultancies in the world.
Speaking to the Committee, McKinsey global managing partner Bob Sternfels hit back at the claims, in arguing the committee had come to “inaccurate conclusions.”
In response to the report, McKinsey said that while its work for Purdue had been “lawful,” it “fell short of the high standards” the firm sets itself.
The claims come after McKinsey agreed a $573m settlement over its role in “aggressively promoting the sale of higher doses of opioids for longer periods of time.”
Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in September 2019 after the firm and three of its executives were fined $634.5m for downplaying Oxycontin’s addictive qualities.