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Lawmakers grill consulting company over work with opioid manufacturers and FDA at same time

A global consulting company is under fire for accusations it helped opioid manufacturers make big profits while also consulting for the government agency in charge of regulating those very drugs.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform grilled McKinsey & Company over findings in a new investigative report pointing to alleged conflicts of interest over its work with drug companies and the Food and Drug Administration.

According to the report, “at least 22 McKinsey consultants, including senior partners, worked for both FDA and opioid manufacturers on related topics, including at the same time.”

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“McKinsey was advising both the fox and the hen house and getting paid by both,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. “For nearly 15 years, McKinsey secretly designed strategies for companies like Purdue to boost sales of addictive painkillers paving the way for an explosion of drug abuse and overdoses across the country.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey spearheaded the investigated and testified about her office’s findings.

“We found that at the same time McKinsey was working for Purdue, the same McKinsey consultants were in fact working for the FDA,” said Healey.

Healey said McKinsey actively worked to advise drug companies to fight off government regulations for addictive prescription drugs.

“Did McKinsey advise Purdue to undermine federal drug safety measures and if so, how?” asked Rep. Maloney.

“The answer to that is quite simply absolutely,” said Healey. “McKinsey was actively coaching Purdue on how to ban together with other opioid companies to fight against those stricter safety requirements.”

McKinsey fired back against the findings in the report and insisted there has not been a conflict of interest.

“It looked at a time period of the work without examining the nature of the work,” said Bob Sternfels, Global Managing Partner for McKinsey & Company. “It implied incorrect conflict standards and it took large speculative leaps to reach unwarranted findings.”

McKinsey denied consulting for the FDA about opioids specifically while working for the drug companies.

Instead, Sternfels said the company focused on administrative and operational issues with the FDA.

“McKinsey did not, did not, serve both the FDA and Purdue on opioid related matters,” said Sternfels.

McKinsey said the company takes “additional measures to ensure compliance and accountability.”

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“We fully recognize the terrible consequences of the opioid epidemic,” said Sternfels. “We’ve acknowledged our role in serving opioid manufacturers, and we apologize for that work. We’ve been committed to being part of the solution.”

On Tuesday, lawmakers said the FDA announced changes to its contracts with McKinsey as the investigation is underway.

“Following questioning from U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), top official at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the FDA has stopped issuing contracts to the consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., while ongoing investigations look into the failure by McKinsey to disclose potential conflicts of interest while the firm was working with the FDA on issues related to opioids at the same time it was working for opioid companies, including Purdue Pharma,” said Hassan’s office.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee Wednesday said lawmakers should instead be focusing on the influx of drugs coming in at the border.

“It is driven by the thousands of pounds and other illicit opioids pouring across our southern border every day because of President Biden’s open border policy,” said Rep. James Comer (R-KY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.