Newly released documents show that advisory firm McKinsey & Company, which has served as a consultant to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) since at least 2009, also helped some of the world’s largest opioid makers target the federal agency to grow their drug sales in the middle of the opioid crisis. The firm, which earned at least $117 million during its consulting engagements with the VA, simultaneously provided advisory services to opioid companies such as Endo International PLC and Purdue Pharma LP, helping the firms increase sales to the VA through new and existing channels.
Senator Marco Rubio, in a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough, alleged that “McKinsey played a role in the opioid epidemic by exploiting vulnerable veterans,” urging the agency to ditch the firm and demanding the secretary assess the VA’s past and current contracts for further conflicts of interest. McKinsey has previously been accused of conflicts of interest related to its work with drug manufacturers to increase sales while simultaneously engaging with the federal agencies that regulated them.
The report comes on the heels of multiple high-profile incidents in which McKinsey has been under fire for alleged unethical practices. These include its involvement in multiple corruption scandals in South Africa and conflict of interest accusations arising from its seeking contracts with U.S. government agencies while simultaneously providing advisory services to the Chinese government and state-owned businesses. The firm also continued its consulting work in Russia in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, only cutting ties after sharp criticism from its current and former staff along with public pressure.
McKinsey representatives have repeatedly maintained the global firm’s innocence in public statements responding to the accusations. A spokesperson for McKinsey cited the 2022 Senate testimony of McKinsey Global Managing Partner Bob Sternfels, in which the executive described the firm’s policies and procedures put in place to protect client data and information, avoid conflicts of interest, and maintain client confidences. The spokesperson also stated that the firm no longer works with companies such as Purdue, Endo, and Mallinckrodt, and halted all work on opioid-specific businesses in 2019.