Talk about your embarrassing PowerPoint presentation! McKinsey, consultant to Johnson & Johnson, prepared a PowerPoint presentation in 2002 that included the following question: “Are we properly targeting and influencing prescription behavior to pain clinics?” McKinsey explained that its work for J & J, “was designed to support the legal use of a patch that was then widely understood to be less susceptible to abuse.” The slides emerged as evidence in the state of Oklahoma case against J & J for its marketing of opioids, marketing that resulted in large numbers of addicted patients and expenses for the state (other states have joined the suit and the damage request is for $17.5 billion)
Meanwhile, back in the court room, a J & J witness kept repeating to the judge, “McKinsey’s words.” Some other words McKinsey used? “get more patients on higher doses of opioid” and employ techniques that “keep [ ] patients on opioids longer.” On cross-exam of the J & J sales representative about the “McKinsey words,” one simple question was telling, “Still use them today?” (referring to McKinsey). And the answer was, “Yes, for different projects.” McKinsey announced that it has now stopped with its words of advice, withdrawing from any opioid advising engagements. Thanks for this brave act after everyone was addicted.
Were I at J & J, I would take a new look at those projects for which they still use McKinsey. Check the PowerPoint slides as well. Sometimes management consultants offer advice that is a bit edgy, and, later, expensive.