CHARLESTON — Several attorneys general across the United States announced Thursday nearly $600 million in settlements with a drug marketing firm accused of helping to fuel the opioid crisis.
Attorneys general from West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio — Patrick Morrisey, Daniel Cameron and Dave Yost, respectively — were among several who announced Thursday settlements within their states with one of the world’s largest consulting firms, McKinsey & Company, which helped opioid firms promote their drugs while profiting from the opioid crisis.
The lawsuits alleged McKinsey advised Purdue Pharma and others on how to maximize profits from its opioid products, including targeting high-volume opioid prescribers, using specific messaging to get physicians to prescribe more OxyContin to more patients and circumventing pharmacy restrictions in order to deliver high-dose prescriptions.
The lawsuits accuse McKinsey partners of emailing each other about deleting or destroying documents related to their work for Purdue Pharma as states began to sue the drug maker for its part in creating the opioid crisis.
Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty in a federal court last year to conspiring to defraud the federal government of its practices, which included paying doctors to misrepresent the dangers of the drug. At one point it marketed the drug in the Huntington area — one of the hardest hit by the opioid crisis — at a rate 32 times that of other areas in the United States.
Cameron and Yost announced Kentucky and Ohio had joined a $573 million multistate settlement with 47 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories to resolve the coalition’s investigation into the firm’s marketing and consulting practices.
Kentucky is set to receive $10,812,204.58 of that settlement, and Ohio will receive $20 million this year and $4.7 million spread over the next four years.
Morrisey announced Thursday that West Virginia did not join the coalition and had reached a separate $10 million settlement with McKinsey, which resolves allegations it collected millions of dollars from opioid manufacturers to boost sales of OxyContin during the opioid crisis.
Morrisey’s office handled the case in-house, and no portion of the settlement will be diverted to outside law firms.
Morrisey said McKinsey considered ways to conceal its activity and involved itself in conflicts of interest by consulting with governments and nonprofits to clean up the very crisis it helped create, all while still working for those same opioid makers.
He said the funds will be used to “solve the root causes of opioid abuse” and committed his office to work to develop a long-term plan to do so.
“Marketing efforts to boost the profits of opioid drug makers have caused — and continue to cause — immense harm to West Virginia,” he said. “Such strategies valued profits above human life, and those responsible must be held accountable.”
Cameron said no money can compensate the damage opioid companies have inflicted on the communities.
“We will continue to seek justice for Kentuckians who have been harmed by the opioid epidemic and work to stop the practices that led to the crisis,” he said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside my fellow attorneys general in reaching this settlement.”
Yost recently announced a record surge in opioid overdose deaths in Ohio in the second quarter of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic following a significant drop the two years prior.
“Twenty-four-and-a-half million dollars won’t cure the opioid crisis, but it can be a start toward bringing treatment and services to people in need,” Yost said. “With consultation from Gov. (Mike) DeWine, the plan is to lead by example and put the lion’s share of this money into the OneOhio Recovery Foundation so it can be put to work across Ohio.”
The settlements require the New York-based company to stop doing business related to opioids and develop a records retention system. The company must also publicly disclose internal documents detailing its work with opioid companies and implement a strict ethics code.