McKinsey Opioid Work Included Advising Distributors, Tribe Says

By Jef Feeley | June 4, 2021

McKinsey & Co.’s role in assisting companies profiting from opioid-based painkillers was “far more extensive” than just advising makers of the highly addictive medicines, according to an Indian tribe’s newly filed lawsuit.

Besides advising manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson and Endo International Plc, the consulting firm helped distributors and retailers including McKesson Corp. find ways to sell more opioids, the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation said in its suit.

McKinsey said the claim is incorrect.

“These allegations are meritless,” D.J. Carella, a McKinsey spokesman, said Thursday in an emailed statement. “Our work with the pharmacies and distributors referenced in this complaint was longstanding and related to a range of business issues, and none of our work for these entities focused on opioids.”

McKinsey has become a target for tribes and U.S. cities and counties after it agreed to pay $641 million to states to settle claims over its opioid consulting work. But tribes and local governments are still suing McKinsey, saying they are being improperly denied a payout from the accord.

The firm says its payout to the states covers all legal claims stemming from the massive U.S. opioid litigation.

The Cherokee Nation is the latest to sue McKinsey.

“McKinsey advised companies at every link in the opioid value chain, starting with their manufacture, to their distribution throughout the United States, and, finally, to their sale to consumers,” the tribe said in the suit, filed Wednesday in state court in Oklahoma.

Distributors such as McKesson hired McKinsey to handle tasks such as analyzing the process of “authorizing medication requests with insurance companies, a critical issue for the opioid industry,” the tribe said. AmerisourceBergen Corp. turned to McKinsey to study the company’s “outreach to drug manufacturers,” according to the suit.

Representatives for McKesson and AmerisourceBergen didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment on the tribe’s suit. Neither company was named as a defendant in the case.

The case is The Cherokee Nation v. McKinsey, No. CJ-21-76, District Court of Sequoyah County, Oklahoma.

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