Photo: bottle and spilled pills

WSAZ: Judge: Opioid distribution data not for public consumption

This article was originally published in WSAZ News Channel 3.

CLEVELAND (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that state and local governments cannot publicize federal government data about where prescription opioids were distributed, a blow to news organizations seeking to report more deeply on the nation’s overdose and addiction crisis.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is providing the information to state and local governments to use in their lawsuits against companies that make, distribute and sell the drugs. Sharing the data even with them came with a long list of conditions, including that it could be used only for law enforcement and litigation.

Cleveland-based Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing more than 800 of the lawsuits in federal court, ruled Thursday that the data cannot be made public. He said that doing so would reveal trade secrets and “eviscerate” the terms under which the information was shared.

The federal government collects information on the distribution of all controlled dangerous substances.

The judge has scheduled the first trials in the matter to start in March 2019. He has been pushing in the meantime for a national settlement.

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