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Consulting firm McKinsey agrees to $78 million settlement with insurers over opioids

Consulting firm McKinsey and Co. agreed to pay $78 million to settle claims by insurers and health funds that its work with pharmaceutical companies helped fuel an opioid addiction crisis.

The agreement was revealed Friday evening in documents filed in federal court in San Francisco. The settlement still needs to be approved by a judge.

Under the agreement, McKinsey would establish a fund to reimburse insurers, private pension plans and others for part or all of their prescription opioid costs.

The insurers argued that McKinsey worked with Purdue Pharma – the maker of OxyContin – to create and employ aggressive marketing and sales tactics to overcome doctors’ reservations about the highly addictive drugs. Insurers said that forced them to pay for prescription opioids rather than safer, non-addictive and less expensive medications, including over-the-counter painkillers. They also had to pay for treatment for their opioid addiction that followed.

From 1999 to 2021, nearly 280,000 people in the United States died from prescription opioid overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Insurers argued that McKinsey worked with Purdue Pharma even after the scale of the opioid crisis became apparent.

The settlement is the latest in a years-long effort to hold McKinsey accountable for its role in the opioid epidemic. In February 2021, the company agreed to pay nearly $600 million to the U.S. states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. In September, the company announced a separate $230 million settlement agreement with school districts and local governments.

Asked for comment on Saturday, McKinsey referred to a statement issued in September.

“As we have previously stated, we continue to believe that our past work was legal and deny allegations to the contrary,” the company said, adding that it had reached a settlement to avoid prolonged litigation.

McKinsey said it stopped advising clients on any opioid-related activity in 2019.

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