Health

Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia will collectively receive roughly $45 million as part of settlement agreements announced Thursday resolving lawsuits against consulting giant McKinsey & Company related to the opioid epidemic.

States had sued McKinsey because the company had advised opioid medication makers and distributors for several years during the height of the opioid crisis. The settlement details how McKinsey advised companies on how to maximize profits, including specific messages intended to get physicians to prescribe more doses of drugs such as OxyContin.

The company admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to a $537 million dollar settlement with 47 states, and a separate settlement with West Virginia. 

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement that Ohio will receive $24.7 million. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said his state will receive $10.8 million over the course of 5 years. 

West Virginia was not part of that multi-state suit and instead pursued separate litigation against McKinsey. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the settlement of that suit in a press conference Thursday, saying his state will get $10 million under terms similar to those of the larger agreement. 

“Whenever large settlements like this come to pass, people rightfully ask, ‘what happens to the money?’” Morrisey said. “Consistent with this agreement, these monies should be used for recovery, for treatment, and to help people get better in the head and in the heart.”

Statements from Yost and Cameron echoed that intent to direct settlement money into addiction treatment programs.

“Twenty-four and a half million dollars won’t cure the opioid crisis, but it can be a start toward bringing treatment and services to people in need,” Yost said.

Cameron’s statement said Kentucky “will use the settlement funds to address problems related to the opioid epidemic in Kentucky.” 

Other terms of the settlement require McKinsey to make public its communications with several opioid makers and pharmacy companies McKinsey advised. 

The Ohio Valley was the early epicenter of the opioid crisis and the region has long had some of the nation’s highest rates of addiction and overdose fatalities. By 2015, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia together made up just a little more than 5% of the total U.S. population, yet the three states accounted for 13% of the country’s total fatalities from opioids overdoses. 

Over-prescription of opioid painkillers such as OxyContin fueled addiction and paved the way for broader use of heroin and, more recently, powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. 

Recent government data show overdose deaths in the region have climbed again during the isolation and stress of the pandemic.

Jeff Young is the Managing Editor of The Ohio Valley ReSource.