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Sean D. Reyes
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Opioid Settlement: McKinsey Settles with Utah, Other States for “Turbocharging” Opioid Epidemic

 $573 million settlement For Contributing to Opioid Epidemic with Purdue Pharma

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and Utah Department of Commerce Executive Director Margaret Woolley Busse announced a $573 million national settlement with one of the world’s largest consulting firms, McKinsey & Company.  The settlement resolves investigations into the company’s role in working for opioid companies, helping those companies promote their drugs, and profiting from the opioid epidemic.  Utah is part of a coalition of attorneys general from 47 states, D.C. and five territories.

Proceeds from the settlement will be deposited into the Opioid Litigation Settlement Restricted Account, which was created by the Legislature in 2020 to address the effects of alleged violations related to the manufacture, marketing, distribution, or sale of opioids.  Utah will receive $6,371,680* from the multistate settlement. This is the first multi-state opioid settlement to result in substantial payment to the states to address the epidemic.

In addition to providing funds to address the crisis, the agreement calls for McKinsey to prepare tens of thousands of its internal documents detailing its work for Purdue Pharma and other opioid companies for public disclosure online. In addition, McKinsey agreed to adopt a strict document retention plan, continue its investigation into allegations that two of its partners tried to destroy documents in response to investigations of Purdue Pharma, implement a strict ethics code that all partners must agree to each year, and stop advising companies on potentially dangerous Schedule II and III narcotics. 

“I’m very pleased that this settlement holds McKinsey accountable and is part of a growing list of successful actions against those who profited from the opioid crisis,” Attorney General Reyes said.  “Far too many people have suffered and died. Families still grieve daily.  Misery from this epidemic continues and is only starting to abate.  We will continue to pursue legal action against those who acted irresponsibly and enriched themselves at society’s expense.  The human cost in Utah and other states is incalculable.”

AG Reyes pointed out: “Payments from this and other lawsuits are not intended to compensate for loss of Utah lives—no amount can do that. But if we fund abatement—including prevention, education and recovery, it is our hope that we can slow down and eventually stop Utah deaths from opioid addiction.”

Today’s filings describe how McKinsey contributed to the opioid crisis by promoting marketing schemes and consulting services to opioid manufacturers, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, for over a decade. The complaint, filed with the settlement, details how McKinsey advised Purdue on how to maximize profits from its opioid products, including targeting high-volume opioid prescribers, using specific messaging to get physicians to prescribe more OxyContin to more patients, and circumventing pharmacy restrictions to deliver high-dose prescriptions.

“Holding companies accountable is an important component of the state’s response to the opioid epidemic,” said Margaret Woolley Busse, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce.  “Too many individuals and families have suffered in this ongoing scourge.  While this settlement marks an important milepost on the path, we resolve to continue working with Governor Cox to help Utahns impacted by this devastating epidemic.”

When states began to sue Purdue’s directors for their implementation of McKinsey’s marketing schemes, McKinsey partners began emailing about deleting documents and emails related to their work for Purdue.

The opioid epidemic has led to considerable harm to Utahns over the last 20 years and is one of the leading causes of death in the Beehive State.  Nationally, opioid overdose has been a growing cause of drug overdose deaths, nearing 500,000 people between 2009 and 2019, according to the CDC.  On an economic level, these deaths—and the impacts on Utahns who have struggled opioid addiction, creating considerable costs to our state in the form of health care, child welfare, criminal justice, and many other programs needed to lessen the epidemic. It has also resulted in lost economic opportunity and productivity. On the social level, opioid addiction, abuse, and overdose deaths have torn families apart, damaged relationships, and eroded the social fabric of communities. 

Today’s filing is the latest action AG Reyes’ office, and the Utah Department of Commerce have taken to combat the opioid epidemic and to hold accountable those who are responsible for creating and fueling the crisis. In addition, the Utah Attorney General’s office has led the way in combatting the problem by dramatically increasing awareness, legally pursuing opioid companies, arresting, and prosecuting illegal opioid dealer Aaron Shamo, and helping distribute Naloxone kits which save lives of overdose victims.


Notes: Link to a Q&A about McKinsey and the settlement here.

  • Payment schedule is as follows:
$ 5,281,233.67w/in 60 days of effective date, around 1st week of April 2021
$ 272,611.68no later than April 2022
$272,611.68no later than April 2023
$272,611.68no later than April 2024
$272,611.68no later than April 2025