Pastor William D. Smart (File photo)

“OxyContin helped ignite the new heroin market that expanded as prescription pain pills spread coast to coast. Before OC, opioids came mixed with acetaminophen to lessen the chance of abuse…Until OxyContin. It came with no abuse deterrent and took patients up to high daily doses very quickly.” Source

Then once people are cut off from their prescriptions, they look to buy on the street. Now with fentanyl more and more prevalent, the addiction from opioids has cost too many people their lives.

Fentanyl-laced deaths are in the news daily, and I know families impacted by opioid addiction and tragic loss of life from fentanyl fueled deaths. However, with all of this tragedy, we have yet to see the corporations responsible for this epidemic be held in full account.

Make no mistake brothers and sisters – the opioid and fentanyl epidemic impacting our communities is not an accident. It was planned and marketed to us by companies making millions off of our suffering.

The beginning of this crisis was fueled by a decision by Purdue Pharma to market Oxycontin despite their full knowledge that their drug was highly addictive and killing people. Purdue pled guilty to three criminal counts and paid more than $8.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties. They acknowledged that they “knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and abet” doctors dispensing medication “without a legitimate medical purpose.”

However, who has not admitted wrongdoing or been adequately held accountable is a company who consults for Big Oil, Big Tobacco, and Big Pharma, and created the strategy to “Turbo-Charge” Oxycontin sales for Purdue is McKinsey & Company.

This consulting firm made a lump settlement of $600 million to 49 states, Washington D.C. and five US territories with no admission of wrongdoing. To put it into context this is just a drop in the bucket for      McKinsey whose profits are around $11 billion every year. And how much relief will we see of the $600 million spread across the entire country – maybe nothing.

Currently there are more than 130 local jurisdictions that have also filed lawsuits against McKinsey including some counties in California. One such lawsuit made more than 200 assertions of fault against McKinsey conspiring with Purdue Pharma stating, “a partnership that resulted in aggressive promotion for the demand and sale of OxyContin through illegal and false messaging… Purdue’s owners — the Sackler family — still engaged McKinsey to maximize sales. In fact, when the agreement concluded in 2013 the organizations launched ‘Project Turbocharge,’ a marketing strategy that tripled sales through suggesting higher dosages and lobbying doctors and pharmacies most likely to over prescribe      opiates to patients.” Source

Furthermore this past November 2021, the Chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter to McKinsey & Company, stating: “Over the last decade, McKinsey & Company—one of the largest consulting companies in the world and a major U.S. government contractor—has engaged in a pattern of conduct that raises serious concerns about its business practices, conflicts of interest, and management standards. The company’s support for drug companies pushing addictive opioid painkillers and raising prices for life-saving medications, even as McKinsey also advised the federal agency regulating their conduct, may have had a significant negative impact on Americans’ health. McKinsey’s investments through an internal hedge fund—including in companies benefiting from opioid sales—also raise significant concerns about conflicts of interest.”

It is time to hold McKinsey accountable for its actions that were clearly focused on profits over what is right and the result is millions of deaths.

We ask our Los Angeles elected officials to review whether there are any contracts being paid by us, the residents, to McKinsey for government services and ask whether such a company should be partnered with our governments.

We also ask that we stand for the counties that have filed lawsuits against McKinsey for their rights to pursue justice for their communities.

It is time to stand up for the bad actors of corporate America and make sure they are held accountable for the devastation that resulted in those decisions that focused only on getting rich men richer.

Pastor William D. Smart Jr is the president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California.