5. How consultants helped push opioid sales
The New York Times takes a step back from the lawsuits and criminal charges against opioid manufacturers to note that McKinsey, the consulting firm, also keeps coming up in those proceedings.
The big picture: Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson both hired McKinsey to boost opioid sales.
- McKinsey hasn't been charged or sued for any role in the crisis, but details about the company's involvement have nevertheless crept out through testimony and court filings.
Details: McKinsey advised one pharmaceutical company to “get more patients on higher doses of opioids," the Times reports, and to study ways of "keeping patients on opioids longer.”
- It advised Johnson & Johnson to step up its "targeting and influencing [of] prescription behavior in pain clinics," per the Times.
Why it matters: One constant, in every lawsuit and criminal case, is that drugmakers were laser-focused on sales above all else — sometimes illegally, but sometimes just by treating the drugs like any other corporate sales project.
- Former Insys executives were recently convicted of bribing doctors to prescribe its painkiller, Subsys. But the trial also revealed a host of other, more mundane tactics designed to boost Subsys sales.
- Emails show a similar mindset at Purdue. When told that OxyContin addiction would get worse if the drug wasn't regulated as a controlled substance, former CEO Richard Sackler asked, "How substantially would it improve your sales?”
- And you hire McKinsey because of its expertise in maximizing profit, not because it knows how best to treat patients.
That sales-first mentality did not start or stop with opioids.
- Johnson & Johnson testified that it's still working with McKinsey on its other drugs, the Times notes.
- Pharmaceutical companies spend roughly $26 billion per year on marketing.