The release of a massive trove of data from lawsuits over the nation’s opioid crisis provides the most detailed accounting to date of the role played by the major pharmaceutical companies and distributors. In legal cases across the country, they have defended themselves as being little more than bystanders — dispensing government-approved drugs at the behest of prescribing doctors. But the data gives a stunning portrait of how the nation’s deadly public health crisis unfolded year by year, with manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies turning a firehose of prescription painkillers disproportionately on rural, working-class communities at the same time the death toll from prescription and illegal opioids was climbing. Following are questions and answers about what the federal data includes and what it could mean for the lawsuits, in which some 2,000 local, state and tribal governments are seeking to hold the drug industry responsible for the crisis. Q: What is the data? A: The released data comes from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, or ARCOS. The government requires the drug industry to report information about the distribution of controlled substances. The part that has been released covers opioid painkillers, showing which pharmacies and medical… Read full this story
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