Consulting giant McKinsey & Co. was hit with a proposed class action in West Virginia federal court over the effect of the opioid epidemic on children of addicts born with narcotics in their system, arguing that the company’s illicit marketing of the drugs to their parents caused the children’s ongoing medical and socioeconomic challenges.
The suit seeks to certify a class of people born in West Virginia after 2002 and under 18, who were diagnosed with opioid withdrawal and whose birth mother used opioids during pregnancy while also possessing a medical prescription for opioids before or during the pregnancy.
The lawsuit was filed by Cynthia Woolwine individually for her daughter, named only by the initials E.G.W. She says the girl was born underweight and suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome. The child’s problem stemmed from Woolwine’s addiction, which was fueled by her doctors, who were direct targets of an illegal opioid marketing scheme masterminded by McKinsey.
The suit seeks, among other things, ongoing medical treatment for the putative class and accuses McKinsey of negligence and civil conspiracy.
E.G.W. was born with a low birth weight and with symptoms of neonatal addiction syndrome, such as difficulty swallowing, muscle stiffness and tremors. Her health problems continue to the present day and include developmental delays, ADHD and difficulty in school and social settings. Now 8 years old, she weighs only 40 pounds.
On behalf of the putative class, the suit includes claims for negligence and gross negligence, nuisance and civil conspiracy, and asks for ongoing medical care, psychiatric care, psychological care, physical therapy, cognitive therapy and speech therapy for the putative class.
Woolwine was already suffering from a yearslong addiction to opioids that followed prescriptions of a vast array of opioids from other doctors to treat her carpal tunnel syndrome. The doctors’ names also appear on the targeted list of various co-conspirators who were advised by McKinsey.
McKinsey has reached settlements with states worth $640 million over its consulting for Purdue Pharma and other drugmakers.