McKinsey reaches deal with US local governments over opioids

McKinsey has been accused of aggressively pushing opioid sales, including targeting doctors who were heavy prescribers.

Leading consulting firm McKinsey & Co has agreed to settle claims by hundreds of United States local governments and school districts around the country that it fuelled an epidemic of opioid addiction through its work for bankrupt OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP and other drug companies.

The deal was disclosed in a court filing the evening of Wednesday, October 27 in San Francisco federal court. Its terms were not made public, and McKinsey and a lawyer for the settling plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

McKinsey previously agreed to pay more than $600m to settle opioid claims brought by all US states and territories, and had argued that those settlements should shield it from local governments’ and school districts’ lawsuits. It has not admitted wrongdoing.

The firm still faces claims by health insurance plans, Native American tribes and families of children exposed to opioids in the womb, which can cause withdrawal symptoms at birth and long-term health and developmental problems. Cases have been filed in multiple states, but are consolidated before US District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco for pretrial proceedings.

Breyer on Thursday denied McKinsey’s bid to dismiss the pending cases on the grounds that courts in states where the New York-based company did not directly do business had no jurisdiction over it. Breyer found that they did have jurisdiction because McKinsey “purposefully directed its activities” at those states in its opioid consulting work.

Plaintiffs accuse the company of pushing aggressive tactics to boost opioid sales, including by targeting doctors known to be prolific prescribers.

The US opioid crisis has caused more than 500,000 overdose deaths over two decades, according to federal government data. Litigation against drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies has so far yielded more than $30bn in settlements, though defendants have not admitted wrongdoing.

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