Universities release digital archive of opioid litigation documents

The University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) and Johns Hopkins University have launched a considerable treasure trove of publicly disclosed documents from recent judgments, settlements, and ongoing lawsuits related to the nation’s opioid epidemic. The Opioid Industry Documents Archive includes emails, memos, presentations, sales reports, budgets, audit reports, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) briefings, meeting agendas and minutes, expert witness reports, and drug company executives’ depositions.

The archive is designed to provide much-needed transparency into the events and practices that led to the opioid epidemic. The timing is noteworthy, too. It comes as government litigation holding pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies accountable for creating and fueling the opioid crisis is heating up.

The searchable, digital archive will “promptly include new documents as they become available through resolution,” of dozens of lawsuits brought by state attorneys general as well as hundreds of lawsuits filed by cities, counties, and Native American tribes in multidistrict litigation (MDL), the universities said.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers have been pushing for the documents’ release, but it wasn’t until last month that the schools revealed how the information would be made available. The archive, which is being developed in part by a panel of individuals who lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic, is free and accessible to the public.

It should be noted that since 1999, more than a half-million people have died from prescription opioids like OxyContin and fentanyl or illicit ones such as heroin.

UCSF and Johns Hopkins have also maintained an archive of documents from the tobacco litigation in the 1990s, which “facilitated efforts to reduce smoking and related diseases, saving millions of lives worldwide,” said Michael Steinman, a UCSF professor.

Caleb Alexander, MD, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Johns Hopkins and the founding co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, told MedPage Today:

The primary goal is to ensure that history never repeats itself.  And we can’t learn from past mistakes without understanding what those mistakes have been.

Lawyers in our firm’s Opioid Litigation Team continue to work on the national opioid MDL. Beasley Allen lawyers represent the State of Alabama, the State of Georgia, and numerous local governments and other entities and handle individual claims on behalf of victims in this litigation.

Sources: University of California-San Francisco, Johns Hopkins University, MedPage

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