McKinsey consulted with FDA on opioids – plus opioid makers, claims report

More than 20 employees at consulting firm McKinsey have worked for the US government on issues related to the opioid epidemic while doing the same type of consulting for major opioid makers like Purdue Pharma, according to a new report. of Congress.

McKinsey, one of the world’s most prestigious consulting firms, has duplicated drugmakers and the US Food and Drug Administration for years, creating a “serious conflict of interest” for the company, according to the report. The report also found that McKinsey officials used their government contract to secure even more consultancy work from private companies.

The US House Oversight Committee, which released the 53-page report on Wednesday, said McKinsey did not disclose its conflicts to the FDA. Committee chair Carolyn Maloney called McKinsey’s actions “flagrant” and said the company must answer for its actions.

“Today’s report shows that while the FDA relied on McKinsey’s advice to ensure drug safety and protect American lives, the company was also being paid for by the very companies that power the deadly opioid epidemic to help them avoid tighter regulation of these dangerous drugs,” Maloney said in a statement.

In a statement posted on its website April 13, McKinsey defended its work as “legal” but added that it “falls short of the high standards we set for ourselves.”

Opioid overdoses caused half a million deaths between 1999 and 2019, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. OxyContin, made by Purdue Pharma, was billed by the company at the time as safe to use around the clock, prompting doctors to prescribe the drug for chronic pain and injuries. But OxyContin and other highly addictive drugs classified as opioids have trapped countless Americans in cycles of addiction, resulting in millions of shattered lives and deaths.

Victims of the epidemic testified in a virtual hearing against Purdue Pharma in March. The extraordinary bankruptcy court hearing placed two dozen victims or their relatives in direct confrontation with three members of the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma. Purdue Pharma and other pharmaceutical companies have paid billions of dollars in settlements for their role in fueling the opioid crisis.

McKinsey itself paid a $573 million settlement for its role in helping opioid manufacturers promote their drugs to Americans.

McKinsey acknowledged in its statement that some staff members consult with opioid manufacturers and the FDA simultaneously, but added that its work advising the FDA was not drug-related.

“McKinsey’s work for the FDA has focused on administrative and operational topics, including improvements to organizational structures, business processes, and technology,” the statement said. “We did not advise the FDA on regulatory decisions or on specific pharmaceutical products.”

Sell ​​Regulator Information to Drug Manufacturers

In his statement, McKinsey added that he plans to cooperate with the House committee in answering any additional questions. The company said it reviews conflicts of interest when accepting government consultancy work, but “if potential conflicts cannot be addressed appropriately, we won’t do the job.”

The report found that McKinsey entered into 76 consulting contracts with the FDA between 2008 and 2022, earning the company $140 million. Between 2004 and 2019, McKinsey entered into 75 contracts with Purdue Pharma or its subsidiaries, according to the report. Some of the McKinsey staff who consulted for both the FDA and Purdue Pharma included senior consultants Navjot Singh and Jeff Smith, according to the report.

The committee’s report also says McKinsey tried to convince opioid makers three times — via email and in-person pitches — to sign additional consulting deals centered on increasing opioid sales.

In one incident in 2009, McKinsey gave a slide presentation showcasing its capabilities to a group of drugmakers. In a bullet point detailing his experience, McKinsey says he has “supported regulators directly and as such developed insight into the perspectives of regulators themselves.”

McKinsey said in its statement that it stopped advising clients about opioid-related issues in 2019.

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