Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) released a letter on Tuesday condemning McKinsey & Company and suggesting the consulting firm should lose out on lucrative federal contracts over a proposal to reimburse pharmacies for every OxyContin overdose and instance of addiction among their customers.
Court documents released in November showed that McKinsey advised the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, on how to increase sales of OxyContin even as overdose deaths from the opioid painkiller spiked across the U.S. Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty on November 24 to federal criminal charges for its role in the opioid epidemic.
In one presentation, McKinsey outlined several possible strategies, one of which was to give rebates to pharmacies for every overdose and case of addiction among their customers, the New York Times reported.
The rebates would total $14,810 per overdose for pills sold at CVS or Anthem. Both companies denied ever receiving rebates for overdoses in comments to the Times. In 2018, two McKinsey consultants appeared to discuss eliminating some records of the company’s business with Purdue, although it is not clear if the firm did go on to destroying documents.
“There are serious questions about whether McKinsey is guilty of the federal crimes to which Purdue recently pled guilty, either as a co-conspirator or by aiding and abetting those crimes,” Hawley wrote in his letter to McKinsey. “McKinsey’s abhorrent conduct also demands that Congress consider broader action. McKinsey earns billions of dollars from contracts with the federal government. No firm that proposes paying kickbacks for overdose deaths should receive a single cent from U.S. taxpayers.”
Hawley also called on “appropriate law enforcement authorities” to review the possibility that McKinsey consultants Martin Elling and Arnab Ghatak, who discussed destroying evidence, could be charged with obstruction of justice.
Opioid overdose deaths hit a record high of over 70,000 in 2019, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Several states and counties have reported an increase in opioid usage in 2020, and Maine attorney general Aaron Frey has cited increased isolation as a result of coronavirus mitigation as one factor in the rise.