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Judge: Opioid distribution data not for public consumption



A federal judge has ruled that state and local governments should not publish federal government data on the distribution of prescription opioids, a blow to news organizations that want to talk more deeply about the country's overdose [1

9659005] The US Drug Enforcement Agency provides the information to state and local governments to use in their claims against companies that manufacture, distribute and sell drugs. Sharing the data even with them came with a long list of conditions, including that it could only be used for law enforcement and litigation.

Judge Dan Polster, who sits in Cleveland and oversees more than 800 of the lawsuits in federal court, ruled Thursday that the data can not be published. He said that this would reveal business secrets and "gut" the conditions under which the information was shared.

The Federal Government collects information about the distribution of all controlled hazardous substances.

The judge has the first attempts in the matter should begin in March 2019. He is pushing for a national agreement in the meantime.

The pharmaceutical industry and government agencies, including states that have not filed lawsuits, are negotiating for months, even when the cases are prepared trial. The pharmaceutical industry is calling on the judge to dismiss the lawsuits, arguing that local governments have no legal standing to sue over the matter and that they have caused the crisis involving drugs approved by the federal government and prescribed by doctors Organizations, including The Associated Press, had asked for data through public records made to local governments.

The Washington Post and HD Media, owners of the Charleston Gazette Mail of West Virginia, went to court for the records. The newspapers said they were considering whether to challenge Thursday's decision.

"We are disappointed, but we continue to fight for records that shed light on the causes and costs of the opioid epidemic – reports that pharmaceutical companies and the federal government want to keep the public secret," said Gazette-Mail editor-in-chief Greg Moore on Friday an e-mail.

A judge from West Virginia made some of the data public in 2016. The Gazette Mail used this message to report 780 million over a six-year period, pills flowed in the only 1.8 million inhabitants state. During this period, more than 1700 West Virginians died of an overdose of opioids, a category of medications that include prescription drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin, as well as illegal drugs such as heroin and illegally-produced fentanyl.

A leading advocate for local governments The drugs, Paul Farrell, said the data would also show the public which pharmacies sold huge quantities of the drugs.

The Washington Post attorney, Karen Lefton, said that "keeping the secret secret does not give the victims' families faith in this deadly crisis."

Opioids killed in 2016 according to US Centers for disease control and prevention more than 42,000 Americans.

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Geoff Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/ Geoffmulvihill

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.


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