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In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation

927 F.3d 919 (2019)

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In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

927 F.3d 919 (2019)

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Facts

During the opioid crisis, over a thousand public entities (plaintiffs) sued manufacturers, distributors, and retailers (defendants) of prescription opiate drugs. The cases were consolidated in multidistrict litigation before one federal judge. The claimants subpoenaed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to produce data from the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS), which tracks controlled substances from manufacture to dispensing. The judge found the DEA had failed to show good cause not to comply with the subpoena and ordered the data produced. Specifically, the judge found the ARCOS data would provide invaluable, highly specific information about opioid sales patterns. Identifying the roles each party played in the crisis required revealing all the data. Likening the opioid crisis to a plague, the judge said studying the ARCOS data could determine where and how the virus grew, making it a reasonable step toward defeating the disease. The judge specifically disagreed that good cause existed for nondisclosure, rejecting the DEA’s arguments that it would interfere with law-enforcement interests or cause drug manufacturers and distributors competitive harm. However, the parties stipulated to a protective order preventing disclosure of the ARCOS data to the media. HD Media Company and the Washington Post intervened and filed state public-records requests seeking disclosure of the data, but the judge upheld the protective order preventing public dissemination. The media appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Clay, J.)

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