Despite all the news revolving around healthcare and the pandemic in the last year, efforts to staunch the opioid crisis are still ongoing. Recently, there have been several developments with the companies who were actively pushing the addictive painkillers responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.
The first being Purdue Pharma, the makers of Oxycontin, who were founded by the Sackler family. It was discovered that, along with the drive to get Oxycontin into more hands, the company offered kickbacks to doctors and marketed directly to them.
Which brings us to Walmart and another high-profile case. Walmart was recently alleged to have not done their due diligence in preventing prescription abuse by encouraging a fast turnaround of prescriptions – reportedly without regard to the apparent legitimacy or size of the order being filled.
Both are now in serious legal hot water, with Purdue Pharma being basically dissolved, and paying massive payouts. Walmart, on the other hand, is actively fighting the charges.
There are many heads to this hydra, and yet another company has fallen under scrutiny for having had a hand in making the opioid crisis as large and deadly as it has become. The new name in the headlines is McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm for many blue-chip organizations, including Purdue Pharma.
McKinsey was hired by Purdue to help them drive up the sales of their drugs. At a time when the inherent dangers of opioids were known and it was already wreaking havoc, the company wanted to supercharge sales.
They did this by utilizing predatory business methods to get the drug in more hands. Documentation from McKinsey has come to light, revealing some of the proposed strategies. Some of the most enraging communications show the company advocating that Purdue pay ‘rebates’ to pharmacy companies for overdose deaths and push against the emotional messages of grieving mothers to stop any negative PR. They also attempted to help Purdue increase sales of high dosage products, as these were more profitable.
The legal ramifications of this have been fairly steep. McKinsey recently agreed to a $573 million agreement with attorneys general in 47 states, the District of Columbia and five territories, according to a court filing in Massachusetts. Separate deals were announced in Washington State, for $13 million, and in West Virginia, for $10 million. Nevada, not party to those agreements, will continue to pursue its opioid investigation, according to the attorney general’s office.
The settlements seem like a windfall for the states however, some factors point toward this being not as big of a loss as it would seem. McKinsey is connected to a hedge fund that, among many other things, is invested in these relief efforts. The fund has its hands in both companies involved with distributing the drugs and the treatment of the associated addiction. Basically, the allegation is McKinsey helped a group that profits benefit them and also played the other side of the game. Even as they lose money to lawsuits, they would see a profit from their money being funneled back into something they are connected to in another way. This leads to a feeling and a sense of just how much this whole system evolved to profit off human suffering.
The opioid crisis has been, and continues to be, a massive source of income for pharmaceutical companies. Holding McKinsey responsible is yet another step in shutting down the ‘Big Pharma’ ecosystem, but as more companies are shown to be a part of the chain, it has become appearance that it will take more time an effort to topple it.
Justice will eventually prevail, but with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been another spike in overdoses. Lives are at stake and taking down the many heads of the of the monster responsible for the opioid crisis is one of the most effective ways to prevent further devastation.
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