Tribe Files Suit Against McKinsey for Alleged Role in Opioid Epidemic

Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians filed suit on Monday in the Northern District of California against defendants McKinsey & Company, Inc. and a swath of unidentified individuals. The complaint alleges that the defendants played an “integral role in creating and deepening the opioid crisis.”

The plaintiff is a sovereign Indian tribe. The complaint explains that Native Americans have borne the toll of the opioid crisis at a disproportionate rate.

In 2007, the plaintiffs recount, Purdue Pharma pled guilty for their misleading marketing of OxyContin as an alternative pain medication that was both less addictive and safer. Following this guilty plea, the complaint claims that Purdue worked closely with defendant McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, to maximize OxyContin sales by “working around the requirements of the Corporate Integrity Agreement that Purdue entered as part of its guilty plea.”

In an effort to continually market opioids, the defendant reportedly provided Purdue with marketing strategies and aided in the implementation of those strategies in selling OxyContin.

The plaintiff argues that the role the defendants played in the opioid crisis “posed an existential threat to tribes and tribal communities.” The complaint notes that Native Americans suffer the highest rate (per capita) of opioid overdoses, and that Native American adolescents are easily able to obtain prescription opioids “through the black market created by opioid diversion.”

The complaint maintains that the defendant’s actions led to a surge in OxyContin sales and other opioids that harmed the plaintiff and others and prolonged and exacerbated the opioid crisis.

The complaint cites a violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the Wisconsin Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act, Wisconsin’s Fraudulent Drug Advertising Act, public nuisance, negligence and gross negligence, unjust enrichment, and civil conspiracy. The plaintiff is seeking favorable judgment on each count, actual and treble damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, an injunction preventing further violations and requiring the defendant to disclose all records, revenues, and profits, and more.

The plaintiff is represented by Frazer Law.