Montgomery County, MD Sues McKinsey for Role in Fueling Opioid Crisis

Montgomery County, MD filed a lawsuit claiming the consulting firm McKinsey and Company, Inc. helped the opioid epidemic flourish by serving as marketing advisors to a number of opioid companies, managing the “emotional messages” of families, and encouraging Purdue Pharma to “turbocharge” sales of its highly addictive prescription drugs.

McKinsey’s actions were “immoral, inhumane, and unconscionable,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement. “This is another example of the corporate structure being used to shield people from their immoral actions. They must be made to account for their callous greed and the filing of this lawsuit marks an important milestone in our county’s efforts to do just that.”

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The lawsuit, which was filed in late February in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claims that McKinsey’s marketing of the opioids to prescribers exacerbated the crisis and that the company “played an integral role in creating and deepening” it.

The plan that McKinsey developed, “Project Turbocharge,” was adopted by Purdue and served as the blueprint for OxyContin sales in 2013, the lawsuit says.

In 2007, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to misleadingly marketing OxyContin. But following the plea, the lawsuit alleges that McKinsey worked with the company and its owners, the Sacklers, to get around the requirements of the Corporate Integrity Agreement that Purdue signed as part of its plea, constituting a “broad scheme to deceptively market opioids.” McKinsey also advised other opioid companies, including Johnson & Johnson.

The suit claims that McKinsey was aware of Purdue’s prior conduct and the dangers of opioid drugs, yet still advised Purdue on how to “improperly market and sell” them. McKinsey not only consulted but was “intimately involved throughout implementation of those strategies,” the suit says. Purdue’s sales of OxyContin rose dramatically following McKinsey’s involvement.

Montgomery County, the most populous in Maryland, has previously been successful in suing pharmaceutical companies and distributors for their roles in the opioid crisis. It is expected to take in $34 million over the next 18 years.

“We will aggressively advocate for the many Montgomery County residents who have been harmed by this deadly and preventable epidemic,” Elrich said.