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Bedford lawsuit moved to Calif.

Case joins others against firm marketing OxyContin

A Bedford County lawsuit seeking damages from a consulting firm that aided in developing a plan to market OxyContin has been transferred to California to be joined with at least 39 similar lawsuits.

Documents in the class action lawsuit on behalf of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties and 2,561 municipalities were transferred last Monday from the U.S. District Court in Johnstown to the Northern District of California court in San Francisco.

The case will be assigned to U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on June 7 decided to consolidate lawsuits filed against the New York consulting firm of McKinsey & Company Inc., which worked for OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP, and transferred 17 lawsuits filed in multiple states to the Northern California DIstrict Court.

Since then, another 22 lawsuits have been transferred.

The lawsuits come from multiple states, counties and cities as well as several native American tribes.

One of the lead attorneys in the Bedford County lawsuit, Barry Scatton, a Bedford County native and a member of Morgan and Morgan Complex Litigation Group of Philadelphia, said that transferring lawsuits of a similar nature to one court is a way to deal with the litigation in an organized way.

The Bedford County lawsuit was filed on June 10 in the Bedford County Courthouse, but then was transferred to the federal court in Johnstown.

The lawsuit deals with a period of time after 2007 when The Purdue Frederick Co., parent organization of Purdue Pharma LP, entered a guilty plea to using a fraudulent marketing campaign that, according to the lawsuit, promoted OxyContin as “less addictive, less subject to abuse and less likely to cause withdrawal” than other opioids.”

The company agreed to obtain an independent monitor of its marketing strategy and submit an annual compliance report to with the U.S. Department of Health inspector general. While OxyContin abuse cases initially fell, the company, it is alleged, teamed up with McKinsey, described as a global management consulting firm, to boost OxyContin sales.

The Bedford County lawsuit charges that Purdue, working with McKinsey, invested “hundreds of millions of dollars” in a campaign to boost sales.

Within five years of signing the agreement, OxyContin sales tripled, and the lawsuit stated, “McKinsey is responsible for the strategy that accomplished this.”

The result of McKinsey’s strategy, it is claimed, was “a final spasm of OxyContin sales before the inevitable decline of the drug.”

By 2018, Purdue no longer marketed OxyContin, and in 2019, McKinsey stated it was no longer working for any opioid manufacturer, noting, “Opioid abuse and addiction are having a tragic and devastating impact on our communities.”

The civil lawsuit lists several counts against McKinsey, including: negligence, for encouraging the overprescribing of OxyContin; gross negligence, for urging the oversupply of the pain killer; negligent misrepresentation and fraud, for providing false information to health care providers, and causing a public nuisance, which addresses the thousands of deaths and devastation to the communities of Pennsylvania caused by opioid abuse.

Scatton said he couldn’t predict how long it will take to resolve the lawsuits against McKinsey, but he pointed out the California judge overseeing the cases is experienced in opioid litigation.

The lawsuit does not ask any specific amount of damages but wants whatever award is received to address the medical care for those suffering addiction, the provision of care for children whose parents suffer from opioid disability and incapacitation, the costs of the drug epidemic associated with law enforcement and associated with drug courts and other resources within the judicial system.

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