Dave Yost shouldn’t try to thwart Cleveland over opioid claims against McKinsey: Blaine Griffin

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CLEVELAND – As we slowly and more effectively manage the COVID-19 crisis, we must turn our attention to another killer in our community: the opioid crisis has resulted in more than 450,000 deaths from 1999 to 2019 nationwide caused by overdoses. Last year, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner reported 715 deaths in the county attributed to opioids and other drugs. There are undoubtedly more deaths that have not been reported.

We continue to fight this battle, and we must not lose sight of the fact that the opioid epidemic has been fueled by corporate greed. Deadly opioid painkillers have not flooded our communities by accident. Instead, we are here because of the deliberate actions of multi-billion dollar corporations that have not been held accountable.

Purdue Pharma already knew OxyContin was killing people when the FDA determined the drug company was recklessly marketing the drug. They could have recognized the massive harm their product was inflicting on people and changed course. Instead, Purdue hired a multibillion-dollar consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., to provide sales advice to pump more opioids into our communities, bypassing FDA restrictions.

McKinsey & Co. developed an elaborate marketing strategy for Purdue designed to “boost” sales of OxyContin. The strategy resulted in a 300% increase in OxyContin sales. According to the class action lawsuit filed by the states, McKinsey’s advice on marketing and offering drug company rebates, Oxycontin sales jumped from $1 billion to more than $3 billion in 2010.

Thanks to McKinsey & Co., Purdue’s profits soared, as did opioid abuse, which the consultancy was well aware of but ignored in the pursuit of profit.

Last year, McKinsey agreed to a settlement of less than $600 million with 47 states for its role in accelerating the opioid crisis. McKinsey, which employs 30,000 people, made more than $10 billion in revenue in 2020, according to Forbes. Given the staggering impact families and communities have felt as a result of McKinsey’s marketing advice, the settlement is far from enough.

McKinsey & Co. is now facing lawsuits from local governments across the country, including the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. Ohio Attorney General David Yost, who brokered a settlement on behalf of the state of Ohio, said he wanted to prevent local communities from pursuing their own settlements with McKinsey & Co. “Why? ” is the question. Attorneys general in other states, who also settled with McKinsey, did not attempt to prevent lawsuits from local communities.

I applaud the State of Ohio for pursuing its own lawsuit, but I strenuously dispute the state’s assertion that their settlement includes Cleveland and Cuyahoga County and other Ohio communities that have been devastated by the trafficking and sale of opioids. I dispute that the state has no right or reason to pre-empt the Cleveland lawsuit and deny us needed money for community programs and medical expenses.

We have seen the hijacking of the tobacco company settlement with Ohio. Most of the dollars did not go to prevention or reimbursement of community medical and treatment costs. Instead, millions of tobacco company dollars have been siphoned off to balance the state budget, build new schools by court order, and give tax breaks to the wealthy.

Cleveland City Council Speaker Blaine Griffin in a 2019 file photo. (Lynn Ischay/The Plain Dealer)The ordinary merchant

No thanks. We in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County will spend the money where it is most needed for education, treatment programs and incurred medical expenses.

If companies like McKinsey had pursued ethical conduct as relentlessly as they pursued profit, many people would still be alive today. Our communities deserve the accountability of those who have driven this tragic and ongoing outbreak that has claimed the lives of thousands.

We need to pursue our own settlement and not see the state waste money on independent programs that do not address the pressing problem of drug overdoses and deaths.

Blaine Griffin is president of the Cleveland City Council.

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