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State to receive millions in opioid abuse settlement

DES MOINES — Iowa will receive a share of a multi-million dollar settlement with consulting firm McKinsey & Company for the firm’s role in fueling the opioid epidemic.

Attorney General Tom Miller says the company help accelerate the use of opioid painkillers. “The argument that we’ve made in negotiating with them and threatening to bring a lawsuit was — that they were a major consultant for Perdue Pharma and others and were advising them how to aggressively market opioids. How to get doctors to write more prescriptions,” Miller says.

He says pain killers were once only prescribed when needed. but the aggressive marketing efforts of McKinsey changed that. “Over a period of time — primarily because of Perdue Pharma — we’ve alleged it became a rather pain without that respect and concern about addiction,” he says.

Iowa is receiving more than $4.6 million of the $575 million settlement that includes 47 other states. Miller says it is exciting because it is the first major settlement in these types of suits.

“We’re close on some others that will be larger, but we are not there yet,” according to Miller. “The investigation and negotiation have taken a long time — longer than we would like.”

He says Iowa’s portion will be paid over five years. “The money from this settlement, and largely from the others I believe will be used in what we call abatement. Abating the enormous problems that were caused by the opioid epidemic. To help with drug treatment to help people recover, and also of course to prevent this sort of thing in the future,” Miller says.

Miller says work continues on ending the opioid pandemic. “We have made some progress in the opioid crisis. A few years ago it was worse than it is. But it still persists and it is still something that we want to work on and deal with,” Miller says. We want the medical community to go back to where they were 20 years ago or so on opioids when they viewed it as a pain remedy of the very last resort.”

Preliminary data from mid-2020 showed a more than 30 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths compared to 2019, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Iowa has also seen a substantial increase in both emergency and long-term care for people with opioid overdose and opioid use disorder over the last 20 years.

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