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Consulting giant McKinsey paying $573M to settle opioid case

Consulting giant McKinsey paying $573M to settle opioid case
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The consulting giant McKinsey & Company will pay $573 million to settle a case from 47 states, Washington, D.C., and five territories over its role advising opioid manufacturers, the company and officials announced on Thursday. 

McKinsey will be required to pay $478 million within 60 days that will be distributed to opioid treatment, prevention and recovery programs, according to court documents.

Previous lawsuits revealed the firm had recommended that drug manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, boost opioid sales during the epidemic.

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Company documents, ranging from 2004 to 2019 — the year McKinsey stopped advising on opioids — showed that McKinsey told Purdue to prioritize selling its OxyContin painkiller, despite Purdue previously pleading guilty to misleading people about the risks.

McKinsey also instructed Purdue to “band together” with other drug manufacturers to combat the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations, New York's attorney general alleged in a complaint.

In the settlement, McKinsey will not admit to misconduct and instead implement restrictions ordered by the court on its consulting involving some addictive narcotics. 

Other restrictions mandate the consulting firm keep five years of emails, reveal potential conflicts of interest when going for government contracts and make tens of thousands of pages of documents on its opioid recommendations available in a database. 

This comes after allegations surfaced that some at McKinsey at least considered deleting documents and emails relating to the firm's opioid work with Purdue Pharma. McKinsey said it fired the two partners who had emailed about "document deletion."

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal first reported the settlement. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) in a statement called McKinsey's recommendations "cynical" and "calculated," noting the agreement means the firm "will never be able to help perpetrate this type of fraud and deception again."

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"While no amount of money will ever compensate for the pain of the hundreds of thousands dead, the millions addicted, and the countless families torn apart from opioid addiction, we can ensure that those responsible for the crisis help to fund prevention, education, and treatment programs to stop additional New Yorkers and Americans across the country from becoming addicted to opioids in the first place," she said.

McKinsey in a statement said the attorneys general acknowledged its "good faith and responsible corporate citizenship in reaching this resolution." The firm said it maintains its work in question was lawful.

Kevin Sneader, the global managing partner at McKinsey, said the company decided "to resolve this matter in order to provide fast, meaningful support to communities across the United States."

"We deeply regret that we did not adequately acknowledge the tragic consequences of the epidemic unfolding in our communities," he said. "With this agreement, we hope to be part of the solution to the opioid crisis in the U.S.”

The Journal reported last week that the consulting firm was getting close to a settlement with state attorneys general that could total hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The cost of the settlement will be higher than what McKinsey made for its opioid-related work with Purdue and other companies, one of the sources told the Times.

--Updated at 10:25 a.m.