The consulting firm McKinsey & Company has denied deliberately hiding the fact that it worked for Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the powerful and addictive painkiller OxyContin, while at the same time advising the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). OxyContin started an epidemic that has claimed over a million lives over the past 20 years.
A congressional committee released a report revealing how McKinsey’s work for Purdue was hidden from the FDA. McKinsey told the company how to ‘turbocharge’ opioid sales even after Purdue was convicted for illegally pushing OxyContin. Over a period of 15 years
at least 22 McKinsey consultants, including senior partners, worked for both FDA and opioid manufacturers on related topics, including at the same time.Congressional Committee Report
The FDA says that until last year it did not know that McKinsey was working for Purdue. The consulting firm was paid $86m by Purdue and $140m by the FDA.
Bob Sternfels, McKinsey’s global managing partner, apologized for the company’s work with Purdue but said his firm was merely protecting client confidentiality anddenied there was a conflict of interest.
The chair of the House oversight committee, Carolyn Maloney, explained:
At the same time the FDA was relying on McKinsey’s advice to ensure drug safety and protect American lives, the firm was also being paid by the very companies fueling the deadly opioid epidemic to help them avoid tougher regulation of these dangerous drugs… McKinsey was advising both the fox and the henhouse — and getting paid by both.
McKinsey, she said, designed strategies for Purdue and other companies to drive up opioid painkiller sales, paving the way for the explosion of addiction and overdoses.
One McKinsey consultant even advised the opioid maker to head off tighter regulation of its drug with a legal claim ‘alleging FDA impropriety.’ The same consultant was later assigned to work with the FDA office responsible for overseeing that regulation. Another senior McKinsey consultant ‘worked on three FDA projects from 2014 to 2018 to assess the safety of dangerous drugs through the FDA Sentinel Initiative while simultaneously advising Purdue.’
A McKinsey partner who frequently consulted for the FDA also worked with Purdue to prepare for an FDA meeting about one of its opioids and
encouraged other consultants to share information with Purdue about ongoing drug safety work McKinsey was doing for FDA, saying they should ‘talk about our work with the FDA Sentinel Initiative, which I think would be very useful for them in opioids.Congressional Committee Report
Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey told the hearing:
We learned that McKinsey consultants worked directly with the Sackler billionaires who controlled Purdue. We found that McKinsey told the Sacklers to target the most dangerous prescribers who put the patients on opioids at the most highest levels and at the highest doses for the longest periods of time. We found that McKinsey did not want the world to know what it was doing. But when I sued the Sacklers, McKinsey consultants read about my investigation and lawsuit and actually planned to delete their documents and emails. They wrote that they were going to destroy the evidence because ‘someone might turn to us.’
Representative Rashida Tlaib said she regarded McKinsey’s consultants as ‘drug pushers in suits.’
If anyone could explain to me the difference between McKinsey, Big Pharma, opioid cartel and the organizations of people like Pablo Escobar, I’m all ears.Representative Rashida Tlaib
Pablo Escobar (1949—93), known as ‘the king of cocaine,’ was the Columbian ‘drug lord’ who headed the Medellin Cartel. His estimated net worth at the time of his death was $30 billion.
Both ‘respectable’ drug lords like the Sacklers and ‘criminal’ drug lords like Escobar are capitalists. Both make use of the profit system to amass huge fortunes. Both are ruthless and unscrupulous in their business dealings. Neither are subject to genuine government regulation or control.
There is one small difference and it does not favor the ‘drug pushers in suits.’ In his native Columbia Escobar was revered as a Robin Hood-like figure. Over 25,000 people were at his funeral. How many attend Sackler funerals?