Virginia will receive $13.6 million from a nationwide settlement with a global consulting firm under investigation for its role in promoting the use of prescription painkillers fueling the nation's drug addiction crisis.
The office of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring joined attorneys general from 47 states, Washington D.C. and five U.S. territories Thursday morning in announcing a $573 million settlement with McKinsey & Company.
Investigators alleged that McKinsey advised Perdue Pharma on how to maximize profits by targeting high-volume prescribers and encouraging physicians to give opioids to more patients; work which the state prosecutor said the consulting company tried to cover up after several states filed suit.
“The role pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors played in creating and prolonging this crisis is clear – but they are not alone in their culpability," Herring said in the news release. "McKinsey provided Purdue Pharma with the marketing plans and materials to push millions of pills and prescriptions into our communities, and they must be held accountable for their catastrophic actions."
Virginia, pending legislation making its way through the General Assembly with bipartisan support, is expected to channel its share of the settlement into a new opioid abatement fund that will help localities, community health agencies and nonprofits provide addiction treatment and recovery services.
"I hope that this settlement demonstrates just why it’s so important for Virginia to set up a framework to make sure that any money goes straight to addressing the opioid crisis head on, expanding access to treatment, and saving lives," Herring said.
Details about the settlement emerged Wednesday evening in media reports that noted several state attorneys general were planning to announce the settlement.
The Associated Press reports that McKinsey has provided investigators with documents that describe efforts by the consulting company to "supercharge" opioid sales in 2013, as health professionals and the public began questioning whether prescription drugs were contributing to an overdose crisis.
Prescription opioids and illegal ones such as heroin and illicit fentanyl combined have been linked to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans since 2000.
The epidemic has deepened amid the coronavirus pandemic. Virginia health officials estimate that there were a record-high 2,250 drug overdose deaths in Virginia last year, raising the count to roughly 10,000 since 2007.
Virginia is currently in litigation with Purdue Pharma; the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma; and Teva/Cephalon, alleging that all bear responsibility for the opioid addiction epidemic.
Purdue, which is in bankruptcy trying to settle various state lawsuits, has proposed a nationwide settlement that would be worth about $10 billion over time.
The company last year pleaded guilty to criminal charges as part of a $225 million settlement with the federal government.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report