Alaskan Tribal Healthcare Providers File Latest Lawsuit Against McKinsey Over its ‘Integral Role’ in the Opioid Crisis

Last week, Alaska-based inter-tribal consortia and tribal organizations “providing health care and other services to American Indians and Alaska Natives” filed suit against McKinsey and Company Inc. for allegedly helping to create and worsen the nation’s opioid epidemic. The Northern District of Ohio complaint seeks damages and other redress for the harm caused by McKinsey’s purportedly improper marketing practices and other illegal conduct related to prescription opioids.

The 65-page filing explains that McKinsey, a global management consultant company, provided consulting services to Purdue Pharma L.P., from approximately 2004 to 2019. The plaintiffs explain that under the U.S. Department of Justice’s October 2020 global agreement with Purdue, the pharmaceutical company entered a guilty plea relating to its marketing of OxyContin, its branded opioid, and was fined $8.3 billion in penalties, while the Sackler family, who owns and controls Purdue, paid $225 million.

In the instant suit, the plaintiffs’ core allegation is that the consultancy “participated in and helped orchestrate a broad scheme to deceptively market opioids,” in part through its so-called “Project Turbocharge,” a plan devised to increase OxyContin sales revenue. The complaint also spotlights the disproportionate impact the opioid crisis had on Native American communities. The filing cites several statistics to illustrate the point, including that in 2014 Native Americans had the highest death rate from opioid overdoses of any ethnic group in the country.

The complaint also makes light of a recent opioid-related settlement McKinsey reached with almost every state, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. Now, the Alaskan plaintiffs join myriad other Tribes, tribal organizations, cities, and counties that have taken McKinsey to court over its exacerbation of the opioid crisis.

On Mar. 5, McKinsey filed a motion to consolidate those pretrial proceedings with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. According to one of the motion’s exhibits, there are more than 15 cases pending against McKinsey. The proposed consolidated case is titled In re: National Prescription Opiate Consultant Litigation.

The Alaskan healthcare plaintiffs are represented by Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker LLP, and McKinsey, in the proposed MDL, by Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP