Tribal Healthcare Providers Join Chorus of Plaintiffs Claiming McKinsey Fanned Opioid Crisis

Plaintiffs Feather River Tribal Health, Inc. and Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health, Inc. have filed suit against McKinsey and Company, Inc. for fuelling what they call “the worst man-made epidemic in modern medical history— the misuse, abuse, and over-prescription of opioids.” According to Monday’s Northern District of Ohio complaint, the plaintiffs want to hold McKinsey, a worldwide management consulting company, accountable for ostensibly deepening the opioid crisis within tribal communities, which have disproportionately borne the toll of the epidemic. 

The plaintiffs are reportedly “intertribal consortia responsible for providing healthcare services to citizens of their constituent tribes.” The complaint alleges that following Purdue Pharma L.P.’s (Purdue) 2007 guilty plea for the misleading marketing of the branded opioid OxyContin, McKinsey collaborated with Purdue to drastically increase OxyContin sales.

McKinsey allegedly did so for the benefit of itself, Purdue, and the wealthy family that has owned and controlled Purdue for decades, the Sacklers. Specifically, the complaint contends, McKinsey sought to maximize OxyContin sales by circumventing the requirements of the “Corporate Integrity Agreement” that Purdue entered as part of its guilty plea.

The complaint asserts, among other things, that McKinsey advised Purdue sales representatives to push the highest doses of OxyContin and helped shape Purdue’s OxyContin marketing, which misleadingly focused on freedom and peace of mind for users. The consultant also purportedly urged Purdue to train and incentivize its sales representatives to increase sales across the market for opioids, even if sales went to Purdue’s competitors, to serve the Sackler family’s goal of increasing Purdue’s appeal to potential buyers.

In addition, McKinsey performed related work for other opioids manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson, by recommending that they employ tactics like “aggressively target[ing] and influenc[ing] doctors treating back pain in order to increase opioid sales.” The plaintiffs allege that McKinsey’s participation in the deceptive marketing scheme came despite its full knowledge of the dangers this scheduled class of drugs poses.

The complaint states six causes of action under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, as well as California negligence, nuisance, unjust enrichment, false advertising, and unfair business practice claims. The filing comes nearly a month after a West Virginia county and town sued McKinsey on similar bases.

The plaintiffs are represented by Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, Berkey Williams LLP, and Zwerling, Schachter & Zwerling, LLP.