Consulting Firm Urged Johnson & Johnson, Purdue To Sell More Opioids 

By Kelly Burch 07/30/19

The firm urged Johnson & Johnson to “get more patients on higher doses of opioids” and find techniques “for keeping patients on opioids longer.”

judge going through the report that consulting firm pushed to sell more Purdue
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The well-known consulting firm McKinsey & Company urged Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma to sell more of their opioid products, according to recent reports. 

McKinsey & Company urged Johnson & Johnson to “get more patients on higher doses of opioids” and find techniques “for keeping patients on opioids longer,” according to reporting by The New York Times. High doses of opioids and long-term use are both associated with increased risk of dependency and misuse. 

The information was revealed as part of opioid trials in Oklahoma, Massachusetts and New Jersey. 

During the Oklahoma trial, the state argued that Johnson & Johnson used misleading and irresponsible marketing for its fentanyl patch, Duragesic, at the urging of McKinsey & Company consultants.

Powerpoint Tells All

The state showed a Powerpoint presentation that McKinsey consultants made for Johnson & Johnson executives in 2002, which questioned whether the company was marketing opioids enough. 

“Are we properly targeting and influencing prescription behavior in pain clinics?” one slide read. 

The presentation recommended specifically marketing opioids to doctors who worked with patients in long-term care and those who treated elderly people with back pain. 

In the Massachusetts case, the state presented documents including a 2013 report from McKinsey with recommendations for Purdue to “turbocharge” sales of OxyContin, which was already linked to opioid addiction at that point. The consulting firm even recommended that Purdue begin a mail order system in order to avoid pharmacies, which were beginning to clamp down on opioid prescriptions at that time. In addition, the firm called on Purdue to target doctors with more sales meetings. 

Stepping Back

McKinsey & Company said in a statement that it no longer provides consulting services related to opioids. 

“Our historical work for clients in this industry was designed to support the legal prescription and use of out clients’ products. Opioids have had a devastating impact on our communities, however, and we are no longer advising clients on any opioid-specific business on a global basis,” the statement said. 

The consulting firm said that the presentation prepared for Johnson & Johnson was “designed to support the legal use of a patch that was then widely understood to be less susceptible to abuse.”

Testifying at the Oklahoma trial, Johnson & Johnson representative Kimberly Deem-Eshleman said that the blunt language about marketing was “McKinsey’s words,” not those of Johnson & Johnson. However, she confirmed that the company did not terminate its relationship with McKinsey over the recommendations. In fact, the companies still work together today for "different projects." 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.