McKinsey pitched Purdue Pharma Canada on boosting opioid sales in 2014

20 June 2023 2 min. read

McKinsey & Company in 2014 pitched Purdue Pharma (Canada) on a plan to increase sales of OxyContin and other opioids in the Canadian market, according to a memo obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The memo was found in the Opioid Industry Documents Archive, an online collection of 1.5 million documents collected from litigation against the US pharmaceutical industry. It includes more than 114,000 documents from McKinsey.

The McKinsey memo – sent to Purdue Pharma (Canada) president Craig Landau on March 18, 2014 – describes how the management consultancy could help Purdue better target “high-potential prescribers” and create more effective incentive structures for sales representatives. 

McKinsey used the above strategy to help Purdue Pharma “turbocharge” its opioid sales in the United States. The consulting firm in 2021 agreed to pay US$573 million to US states to settle investigations into its marketing consulting work for opioids manufacturers.

McKinsey pitched Purdue Pharma Canada on boosting opioid sales in 2014

Dominic Barton, who was head of McKinsey from 2009 to 2018, earlier this year told a parliamentary committee examining the federal government’s ballooning consulting spend that the consulting firm did no opioid sales and marketing in Canada. Barton served as Canada’s ambassador to China from 2019 to 2021, stepping down to become chairman of mining company Rio Tinto.

“Consistent with our testimony, McKinsey and Company did not do any opioid sales and marketing work in Canada and it would be false to state otherwise. As is abundantly clear from the document itself, this was a proposal,” Alley Adams, a McKinsey spokesperson, told the Globe. “No work ever took place as a result.”

McKinsey is facing a class action lawsuit from the BC government – which the federal government is also planning to join – accusing the firm of providing reckless marketing work to boost opioid sales. McKinsey rejected the allegations in February, claiming insufficient material facts to support the case.

The suit alleges McKinsey had a relationship with Purdue since at least 2004, and that it designed and implemented marketing plans to boost opioid sales in Canada. BC claims the firm worked with manufacturers to target physicians with marketing calls and lobby pharmacies to increase sales – despite knowing the drugs were addictive and were being promoted to treat conditions where they had little efficacy.