McKinsey Settles with Canadian Cities in Opioid Crisis
In a landmark decision announced in December 2023, consulting giant McKinsey & Company has agreed to a settlement related to its role in exacerbating the Canadian opioid crisis.
The Scope of the Opioid Crisis in Canada
Over the last two decades, the damage inflicted by the opioid crisis has been catastrophic. Especially hard-hit is Calgary, where the city’s exploding homeless and crime rates have been linked directly to the crisis. At its core, the tragedy is defined by lost lives, as thousands of Canadians have succumbed to opioid overdose across the nation. However, the crisis has had a ripple effect, causing a broad spread of socioeconomic problems from an increased strain on the healthcare system to upticks in property crime and homelessness as people struggle with addiction.
Perhaps one aspect not often considered is the crisis’ direct influence on families, as parents, partners, and children are pulled into the destructive orbit of opioid addiction. The access, affordability, and potency of opioids, combined with strategies by certain pharmaceutical companies to downplay addictive risks, have all contributed to the current crisis state.
The McKinsey Settlement
McKinsey played a significant role in the opioid crisis by advising Purdue Pharma on sales strategies for their drug, OxyContin. These proactive strategies increased drug sales, further deepening the Canadian opioid crisis. Following a lawsuit pursued by a Canadian opioid abatement class action, McKinsey & Company has now agreed to a significant settlement.
This settlement is in itself recognition of the role played by McKinsey in the opioid crisis. However, acknowledgment aside, the focus of this settlement is to contribute financial resources to combat the opioid crisis in affected communities across Canada.
Efforts to Combat the Canadian Opioid Crisis
Multiple strategies and efforts are currently being employed to beat back the opioid crisis in Calgary and other Canadian cities. These include:
- Increasing the availability and distribution of naloxone kits. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that reverses the effects of opioid overdose, thereby saving lives. These kits are often offered for free in affected communities.
- Public health awareness and education campaigns aimed at reducing stigma and encouraging people struggling with opioid addiction to seek help.
- Safe consumption sites which provide supervised environments for the use of previously obtained opioids. This reduces risk of overdose and infection, and opens opportunities for engagement and referrals to other resources.
- Policy changes, including the decriminalization of opioids and an increased emphasis on substance use as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice one.
- Investments in harm reduction programs, addiction treatment services, and mental health support.
While the settlement with McKinsey is a major victory in the fight against the opioid crisis, its true value lies in the recognition of corporate responsibility in the crisis, and the commitment to making things right.
The key takeaway is the need for mitigation measures geared towards dismantling and ultimately eradicating the opioid crisis in Calgary and across Canada. These measures are multifaceted, holistic, and people-centered; they consider the user’s health, socio-economic context, and structural forces that can push people towards substance use.
We look forward to seeing how this settlement will be utilized in service of these necessary measures, helping to heal communities across Calgary and all of Canada from the devastation wrought by the opioid crisis.