Opioid Lawsuit Plaintiffs Want Access To DEA Drug Database Data

[David Smart / Shutterstock]

The cities and counties suing drug makers over the opioid crisis want the federal government to turn over data on prescription drug transactions.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs and the Drug Enforcement Administration met on Thursday, but could not iron out an agreement, according to court filings.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster had ordered the two sides to work out their differences, scheduling a hearing on Monday afternoon if they reached an impasse.

The plaintiffs said they want access to records of transactions among manufacturers, distributors and retailers. They’ve asked for sale dates, names of sellers and buyers and all data on opioids. The information requested, contained in the DEA’s Automated Records and Consolidated Orders System/Diversion Analysis and Detection System database, spans nine years from 2006 to 2015.

Justice Department attorneys wrote in a court filing that the DEA offered to produce two years of anonymous transaction records to protect privacy and “law-enforcement-sensitive information.”

The agency also offered to provide a list of major opioid manufacturers in each state.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys called that proposal “problematic,” writing, “the limited data would not allow the MDL Plaintiffs or the Court to identify the specific manufacturers and distributors that sold and/or distributed the prescription opioids into specific communities.”

DEA attorneys wrote that the cities and counties’ lawyers wouldn’t agree to a protective order for the data, “but rather acknowledged that any produced data eventually would reach Plaintiffs’ clients, state and local governmental entities, and the news media.”

The plaintiffs wrote that they would leave up to the judge how much to disclose to the media and others. 

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the DEA offered to produce a year of anonymous data. The agency offered to produce two years of anonymous data.

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