Skip to main content

Department ofManagement & Entrepreneurship

McKinsey & Company OxyContin Case

Sr. Justin Armanino

Justin Armanino on McKinsey

My name is Justin Armanino, and I am a sophomore at Santa Clara University studying Finance. I have always had a passion for social justice, and when Professor Santoro reached out with the opportunity to pursue business ethics research with him as a fellow for the MSBEHR, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. 

I am currently working with Camille Spence on researching McKinsey & Company’s involvement in the opioid crisis with Purdue Pharma, since they consulted Purdue Pharma on how to increase profits for their OxyContin sales. So far, Camille and I have spent our time researching relevant articles, reading through emails between Purdue executives and McKinsey consultants, and determining what legal liabilities or ethical responsibilities that McKinsey didn’t abide by. 

Through our research, we have confirmed a clear trend of unethical behavior by McKinsey; we have also determined that their behavior and involvement in the opioid crisis is comparable to that of Purdue Pharma. McKinsey & Co.’s plans to increase the sales of Oxycontin for Purdue Pharma despite knowing the risk that OxyContin posed in terms of addiction and death are purely unethical. McKinsey chose to disregard the welfare of others to increase its clients’ profits, which uses the intended buyers as a means to an end. 

Our research has opened my eyes to the lack of accountability in the pharmaceutical industry as well as the consulting industry, and as someone who hopes to one day be a consultant, it has made me aware of the moral ambiguity that seems to be deeply rooted in corporate consulting.

Camille Spence

Camille Spence on McKinsey

My name is Camille Spence, and I'm a Sophomore in the Leavey School of Business studying Finance. I'm thrilled to be working alongside Michael Santoro and my team to carry out research on business ethics. I think understanding and implementing a mindset of corporate social responsibility is an integral part of our studies at Santa Clara University and will ensure our future career success.

I am currently working alongside Justin Armanino, researching McKinsey & Company’s role in perpetuating the opioid crisis through consulting with Purdue Pharma on how to increase sales of their drug, OxyContin. We have conducted our research through reading relevant articles and producing document evidence to determine whether McKinsey & Co. failed to ensure their ethical responsibilities and legal compliance. Further, we have compared the McKinsey case to past legal case studies, such as the Ford Pinto case, to examine overlaps in unethical behavior.

Our research illustrates a clear trend towards valuing profit over human welfare, as both the McKinsey and Ford Pinto cases have demonstrated planned protections such as rebate plans for overdoses against known potential damages and liabilities, thus proving the companies had definitely realized the harmful implications of their actions.

Discussions about Justin and I’s findings with Professor Santoro have enlightened me on the lack of ethics still greatly present in many of our major business structures and sectors. I hope by furthering my research, I will continue to understand ways in which company culture and management structures can positively impact corporate ethical behavior.