News organizations are pushing for the public release of data detailing the distribution of prescription opioids throughout the U.S., information that could show how drug manufacturers and distributors contributed to the nation’s addiction and overdose crisis.
Attorneys for The Washington Post and HD Media, which owns The Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, filed requests Monday in federal court in Cleveland. They are advocating for release of records that the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has turned over as part of lawsuits between hundreds of local governments and the drug industry.
Other news organizations, including The Associated Press, also have requested information from the federal opioid distribution database.
“Where releasing records would merely bring embarrassment or adverse publicity to a corporation or a governmental agency, the records must be disclosed. In this case, disclosure of the (distribution) data would cause no conceivable harm to patients or other innocent individuals,” Washington Post lawyer Karen Lofton wrote in a court filing Monday. “If anything, their interests would be advanced by the public accountability that would be demanded in the wake of such disclosures.”
Drug manufacturers, distributors and the federal government object to making the information public. In a court filing last month, lawyers for the federal government argued that doing so would jeopardize the companies’ trade secrets, criminal investigations and violate state public records laws.