You may have missed it, but recently the secretive consulting firm McKinsey + Co. agreed to pay nearly $600 million in fines to 47 states for its role in helping Purdue Pharma promote opioid addiction. Corporations trying to profit from human suffering is nothing new. But the details of McKinsey’s advice to the drug company are worth noting as a reminder of how capitalists always put profit first.
In 2007, after Purdue pled guilty to misleading doctors and the public about the dangers of OxyContin, McKinsey advised the company on how to make $200-$400 million more per year off sales of the drug, and how to head off regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. In 2009 it advised the drug maker on how to “counter the emotional messages from mothers with teenagers that overdosed.” And in 2017, after the opioid crisis was widely recognized as a human disaster, “McKinsey estimated how many customers of companies including CVS and Anthem might overdose. It projected that in 2019, for example, 2,484 CVS customers would either have an overdose or develop an opioid use disorder. A rebate of $14,810 per “event” meant that Purdue would pay CVS $36.8 million that year.” All to encourage the use and therefore the sales of the deadly drug!
One former employee said of McKinsey: “This is the banality of evil, M.B.A. edition…They knew what was going on. And they found a way to look past it, through it, around it, so as to answer the only questions they cared about: how to make the client money…”
More than just the banality of evil, these actions highlight the deadly banality of capitalism. A system that puts profits over people. A system that has outlived its usefulness and must be done away with.