The Rundown

Ohio lawmaker calls on Congress to investigate opioid consultant

By: - October 13, 2021 12:40 am

A man walks by a billboard for a drug recovery center. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Management consulting firm McKinsey and Company has already been forced into nearly $600 million in settlements over its role in fueling the opioid crisis that’s taken the lives of more than 450,000 Americans the last two decades, but an Ohio state representative wants Congress to investigate the firm further.

Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, pointed to reporting by ProPublica of the apparent conflict of interest in McKinsey advising both opioid manufacturers as well as the Food and Drug Administration office in charge of approving prescription opioids. At times, ProPublica reported, McKinsey consultants helped drugmakers fend off costly FDA oversight while other McKinsey employees advised the FDA.

With the FDA still contracting consulting work from McKinsey, Stewart introduced a resolution Tuesday calling for Congressional action.

“What we’ve laid out here, I would not be allowed to do as a practicing attorney,” Stewart said. “I cannot represent two sides that are opposed to each other in the same case, and I think that’s fairly clearly what you have going on here.”

The firm’s settlements came after lawsuits from 49 states produced documents showing how McKinsey worked to promote Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin painkiller, The New York Times has reported.

Purdue Pharma has declared bankruptcy and is being reorganized into a charity-driven organization with the Sackler family removed from ownership and on the hook for $4.5 billion in funds for fighting the opioid epidemic.

Stewart’s resolution urges Congress to keep digging into the McKinsey and Company’s conduct and to “take action to prevent conflicts of interest in federal contracting.” McKinsey continues to bid on federal contracts, but Stewart believes those agreements might not get renewed if the firm’s practices are brought to light.

And it appears Stewart has a willing audience. Already, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators have sent a letter to the FDA demanding information about the agency’s current relationship with the firm, and how it vets contractors for potential conflicts of interest.



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Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.