Committee Releases Report Uncovering Significant Conflicts of Interest at McKinsey & Co. Related to Work for FDA and Opioid Manufacturers
Washington, D.C. (April 13, 2022)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, released an interim staff report entitled, The Firm and the FDA: McKinsey & Company’s Conflicts of Interest at the Heart of the Opioid Epidemic. The report presents preliminary findings from the Committee’s investigation into McKinsey’s consulting work during the opioid epidemic.
The investigation uncovered evidence that McKinsey consultants, including senior partners, frequently worked on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contracts while also working for opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma. McKinsey’s conflicts, which the firm apparently did not disclose to the FDA, raises serious questions about McKinsey’s ability to provide objective advice and its compliance with the terms of its contracts and federal law.
The investigation also uncovered evidence that McKinsey used its government consulting work to solicit more business from opioid manufacturers and tried to influence government officials, including Trump Administration Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar, to advance the interests of its private sector opioid clients.
Chairwoman Maloney issued the following statement in releasing the new findings:
“The Oversight Committee’s investigation is shining a spotlight on the unregulated and secretive world of private consulting firms like McKinsey that create conflicts of interest by working for both the federal government and regulated industries. Today’s report shows that at the same time the FDA was relying on McKinsey’s advice to ensure drug safety and protect American lives, the firm was also being paid by the very companies fueling the deadly opioid epidemic to help them avoid tougher regulation of these dangerous drugs.
“McKinsey staffed at least 22 consultants at both the FDA and opioid manufacturers on related topics, including at the same time. Behind the scenes McKinsey consultants leveraged their federal connections to secure even more private sector business and tried to influence key public health officials on behalf of clients like Purdue Pharma.
“McKinsey’s conduct is even more egregious considering its central role in driving a public health crisis that has killed half a million Americans and continues to claim tens of thousands of lives every year. The American public will soon learn even more about McKinsey’s role in the opioid epidemic thanks to the hard work of state Attorneys General and their landmark $573 million settlement.
“McKinsey must answer for its actions, and I plan to have McKinsey’s Global Managing Partner testify before my Committee on the conflicts of interest uncovered in this report. I remain committed to uncovering the full scope of McKinsey’s conflicts of interest across the federal government and advancing legislative solutions to safeguard the health and security of the American public.”
The Committee’s investigation has uncovered the following information:
- At least 22 McKinsey consultants, including senior partners, worked for both FDA and opioid manufacturers on related topics, including at the same time: The Committee’s investigation uncovered 37 FDA contracts that were staffed by at least one McKinsey consultant who simultaneously or previously worked for Purdue. These consultants formed part of what one consultant called McKinsey’s “mini ‘army’ here at Purdue.” For example:
- In 2009, McKinsey staffed a consultant on a project in which the firm recommended Purdue “defend against strict treatment by the FDA” in the agency’s opioid-REMS safety program or “[r]aise legal claims alleging FDA impropriety.” In 2011, McKinsey staffed that same consultant in an FDA office responsible for overseeing elements of that same safety program on a project to define the office’s “role in monitoring drug safety.”
- In 2011, at least four McKinsey consultants working on a $1.8 million FDA contract to enhance drug safety and address “the adverse impact of drugs on health in the US” were simultaneously working for Purdue—including on projects designed to persuade FDA of the safety of Purdue’s opioid products. One project involved writing “scripts” for Purdue to use in a meeting with FDA on the safety of pediatric OxyContin.
- One senior McKinsey consultant worked on three FDA projects from 2014 to 2018 to assess the safety of dangerous drugs through the FDA Sentinel Initiative while simultaneously advising Purdue.
- In 2017, a McKinsey partner began work on a $2.7 million contract to help modernize FDA’s Office of New Drugs—at the same time the McKinsey consultant was advising Purdue on maximizing the market potential of a new opioid and another potentially lucrative new drug which Purdue would soon file with the same FDA office.
- McKinsey utilized its federal government contracts, connections, and influence to solicit private sector business: Documents show McKinsey consultants sought to leverage their government contacts and experience to solicit private sector business. For example:
- In 2009, in a bid to lead a working group of opioid manufacturers, McKinsey highlighted that due to its direct work for regulators, the company had “developed insights into the perspectives of the regulators themselves.”
- In 2014, a McKinsey partner wrote to Purdue’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) that McKinsey brought an “unequaled capability based on who we know and what we know,” highlighting the firm’s work for “State and Federal Regulators,” including “FDA, who we have supported for over five years.” Less than a week later, McKinsey confirmed multiple engagements at Purdue, including a project led by a McKinsey partner who frequently consulted for FDA to prepare Purdue for an FDA Advisory Committee meeting on one of its opioids.
- In 2016, a McKinsey partner encouraged other consultants to share information with Purdue about ongoing drug safety work McKinsey was doing for FDA, saying they should “talk about our work w FDA, specifically sentinel which I think would be v useful for them in opioids.”
- McKinsey submitted opioid advice to the Trump Administration, including information that went to the HHS Secretary and FDA Commissioner: Documents show that McKinsey consultants with Purdue ties attempted to influence or did in fact influence public health officials in the Trump Administration on the topic of the opioid epidemic. For example:
- In 2018, McKinsey consultants drafted a “transition memo” to incoming HHS Secretary Alex Azar. The memo contained input from McKinsey consultants who did work for Purdue, including one consultant who had previously recommended strategies to “Turbocharge Purdue’s Sales Engine” and use a “Wildfire” strategy to sell more opioids. This consultant recommended that the memo to Secretary Azar emphasize the “important societal benefit” of opioids. The final memo included certain recommendations that appear aligned with the interests of McKinsey’s private sector opioid clients.
- McKinsey consultants discussed the firm’s influence on a speech by FDA Commissioner Gottlieb in 2018 concerning a drug safety monitoring program. They noted that a claim about opioids made by another McKinsey consultant who had worked for both FDA and an opioid manufacturer “got into one of Scott Gottlieb’s public speeches” even though the consultant had “made it up entirely.”
- McKinsey failed to disclose its serious, longstanding conflicts of interests to FDA, potentially violating contract requirements and federal law: The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) sets rules for federal agencies, including the FDA, to avoid, neutralize, and mitigate organizational conflicts of interest before awarding contracts. Pursuant to those regulations, many of McKinsey’s FDA contracts affirmatively required contractors submitting proposals to disclose potential organizational conflicts of interest. However, McKinsey produced no evidence to the Committee that it ever disclosed its extensive, ongoing work for opioid manufacturers to FDA. On the contrary, McKinsey appears to have repeatedly certified that there were “no relevant facts or circumstances which would give rise to an organizational conflict of interest.” False certifications on federal contracts can lead to civil or criminal penalties, including under the False Claims Act.
- McKinsey consultants discussed deleting documents related to their work for Purdue: Documents obtained by the Committee reveal that as early as May 2017, McKinsey partners discussed ways to keep McKinsey’s documents from being discovered in Purdue’s ongoing lawsuits, including putting presentations on a “neutral template” without Purdue’s logo and only showing “hard” or paper copies of presentations to Purdue. One McKinsey senior partner described the perceived benefit of the latter approach: “It will live only on our laptops and then we can delete.” Public reporting has shown that in July 2018, senior partners at McKinsey discussed destroying their documents related to their work for Purdue. Documents obtained by the Committee show one of these senior partners later emailed himself a note to “delete old pur documents from laptop.”
On November 5, 2021, Chairwoman Maloney launched an investigation McKinsey’s consulting services on behalf of the opioid and pharmaceutical industries and the company’s conflicts of interests.
To date, McKinsey has failed to fully cooperate with the Committee’s investigation. In particular, McKinsey has failed to provide basic information about certain clients and the work McKinsey did for them.
Click here to read the Committee staff report.
Click here to read the underlying documents.