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McKinsey to Pay $78 Million in Landmark Opioid Settlement

— January 2, 2024

Drug consulting firm settles plaintiffs’ opioid epidemic claims.

Consulting giant McKinsey & Co. has given in, providing a $78 million settlement in order to resolve the claims made by U.S. health insurers. The claim also included several benefit plans offered. They alleged that the firm’s consulting work with drug companies played a role in fostering the addiction epidemic. The landmark opioid settlement, outlined in documents filed in federal court in San Francisco, is pending judicial approval.

Under the terms of the agreement, McKinsey will establish a fund to reimburse its insurers, any private benefit plans that it offered or was a part of, and other entities for a portion or all of their prescription opioid expenses. This settlement marks the conclusion of a series of legal actions against McKinsey related to its involvement in the U.S. opioid crisis.

The consulting firm had previously reached settlements amounting to $641.5 million with state attorneys general, $230 million with local governments, and had resolved cases brought by Native American tribes. The latest settlement addresses claims from third-party payers, including insurers providing health and welfare benefits.

Plaintiffs alleged that McKinsey contributed to the opioid crisis by assisting drug manufacturers, such as Purdue Pharma, in devising deceptive marketing strategies that fueled the sales of painkillers. Insurers argued that these strategies compelled them to cover prescription opioids instead of safer, non-addictive, and more affordable alternatives, leading to additional expenses for opioid addiction treatment.

McKinsey to Pay $78 Million in Landmark Opioid Settlement
Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova from Pexels 

While McKinsey has not admitted wrongdoing, it expressed that its past work was lawful and clarified its commitment, dating back to 2019, to refrain from advising clients on any opioid-related business. Paul Geller, an attorney for the plaintiffs, emphasized that the opioid crisis resulted from an oversupply of dangerous addictive drugs, and the case aims to recoup some of the funds spent on the over-prescribed pills.

This landmark opioid settlement by McKinsey & Co. to resolve claims related to its involvement in fueling the epidemic not only comes with a significant financial cost but also poses a potential blow to the consulting giant’s reputation.

McKinsey is a renowned global consulting firm and has long been considered a prestigious advisor to businesses, governments, and institutions worldwide. However, its entanglement in lawsuits and settlements concerning the opioid crisis has cast a shadow over its once-sterling reputation.

The series of settlements, including the most recent one, stem from allegations that McKinsey played a role in devising deceptive marketing strategies for drug manufacturers, contributing to the widespread prescription of opioids and, subsequently, the opioid addiction epidemic.

While McKinsey has consistently maintained that its past work was lawful and has not admitted to any wrongdoing, the scale and scope of the settlements suggest a recognition of the need to address the consequences of its advisory role in the healthcare industry.

For a company that thrives on its image of providing strategic and ethical consulting services, the repeated legal actions and settlements raise questions about McKinsey’s internal practices and ethical standards.

The willingness to pay substantial amounts to resolve legal challenges may be seen by some as an acknowledgment of its involvement in activities that contributed to a public health crisis.

Reputation, a vital asset for consulting firms, can significantly influence client trust, stakeholder confidence, and the ability to attract top-tier talent. As McKinsey strives to move past the opioid-related controversies, the impact on its reputation is likely to linger.

Clients may question the firm’s commitment to ethical business practices and its ability to provide unbiased advice, potentially influencing their decisions to engage McKinsey’s services.

This landmark settlement is part of a broader legal landscape that has seen over $50 billion in settlements with stakeholders concerning their roles in the opioid epidemic, which has claimed nearly 645,000 lives in the U.S. from 1999 to 2021.


Consulting firm McKinsey to pay $78M in U.S. opioid settlement with health insurers, company benefit plans

McKinsey to pay $78 million in US opioid settlement with health plans

About McKinsey’s past work for opioid manufacturers

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