Pharma’s reliance on McKinsey has to change

QUICK READ: McKinsey & Company is the largest of the so-called “Big Three” Management Consulting firms, which includes Bain & Co and the Boston Consulting Group. McKinsey is, however, the name most closely associated with management consulting. I would argue that they have done more damage to pharma than the media.

Big consulting firms take no credit and they accept no blame. They do take a huge fee for having their MBA’s, fresh out of school, tell pharma how to leverage their business models. Their recommendations are often one of the reasons why pharma companies are always in the crosshairs of the media.

My first interaction with McKinsey came when, at a client’s request, I sat in at a presentation on how to maximize sales of a drug that was close to coming off patent. As I listened to the McKinsey people talk I kept a journal of things they said that were in direct contrast to the market. One was recommending a 25% price increase at a time when the media, and oncologists, were screaming about the prices of cancer drugs.

I don’t understand, frankly, why ANY pharma company would hire McKinsey. Are their own people too dumb to prepare long-range business plans?

To me, consultants who just graduated from Harvard with an MBA don’t know shit about healthcare marketing. Sure, there are things we could do but that doesn’t mean we should necessarily do them. AbbVie and Gilead are two examples of companies that continually put profit ahead of patients.

Pharma is always looking for the next blockbuster that will rake in money. Some pharma companies are trying to make their drugs more affordable for patients who are out of work but try and navigate the system to get help with prescription drug costs and it can be a nightmare.

Of course, McKinsey could care less about what patients can afford or what the media says about “big pharma”. They deal with cold hard spreadsheets that show how to make a lot of money. Their people have hearts made of black coal and feel they are the smartest people in the room.

Last year I remember when some of my client’s people vented to me as McKinsey was hired to look at the organizational structure. During interviews with McKinsey people, they were asked “what they do” and “how they do it”. The employees knew that McKinsey was going to recommending eliminating a lot of positions that they did. After the client tried to implement some of their recommendations projects came to a screaming halt because nobody knew who had approvals and why things were being done.

McKinsey, by the way, reportedly consulted with Saudi Arabia on how to handle the backlash of murdering an American citizen. Their history is full of things none of us would want to be associated with.

Surely pharma can do better than McKinsey.