RALEIGH — Consulting firm McKinsey & Company has agreed to pay over $573 million as part of a settlement to resolve claims of liability in the opioid epidemic.
The claims were made by 43 states, which includes North Carolina, as well as the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories.
According to N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein, the state will receive just under $19 million, with $15 million paid out in the coming next few months. The balance of $4 million will be paid in installments over the course of the next three years.
“The opioid epidemic has ripped families apart all across our state,” said Stein. “Just as we were making progress in fighting back, the COVID-19 pandemic made overdose deaths spike again. I am committed to doing everything in my power to fight this epidemic — and that includes holding accountable those who are responsible for its creation and have profited from it.”
Stein continued, alleging that McKinsey “helped to develop and promote schemes that led to widespread over prescription of Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin.”
The announcement was made alongside California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The Biden administration has nominated Becerra to head up the U.S. Health and Human Services department.
“Today’s deal is a big deal because… well, it’s a big deal,” Becerra said during the press conference.
Stein said the funds will be used to deal with the consequences of opioid addiction, such as treatment centers, county paramedics who respond to overdoses, and programs in county jails.
The payout is related to the role McKinsey played in the opioid epidemic and advice it gave to drugmaker Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family that owns the company. Purdue Pharma had to file for bankruptcy in 2019 as part of a proposed $10 billion settlement aimed at ending thousands of lawsuits, many claiming Purdue deceptively marketed opioids, which helped fuel the opioid epidemic.
Last year, Stein filed a lawsuit against eight members of the Sackler family claiming in a press release that the Sacklers “are the driving forces behind Purdue Pharma and its work to deceptively market and sell OxyContin.”
“On behalf of the tens of thousands of sick people in North Carolina who desperately need treatment, I am suing the Sacklers personally,” said Stein in 2020. “The Sacklers must be held accountable. They need to write a check.”
A December 2020 CDC report said overdose death rates were the highest ever recorded for a single 12-month period from May 2019 and May 2020. During that time, 81,000 people in the United States died from an overdose.
Data for North Carolina located on the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services opioid dashboard is largely incomplete and outdated. The most recent data available is surveillance of emergency room visits for overdoses, which showed a 23% increase when comparing statistics in November 2020 to that of November 2019.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), an estimated 79% of drug overdose deaths in North Carolina in 2018 involved opioids for a total of 1,783 fatalities.
In 2018, health care providers in North Carolina wrote “61.5 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons compared to the average U.S. rate of 51.4 prescriptions,” according to the NIH.