Newly public federal data shows how drug companies increased shipments of opioid painkillers across the U.S. as a national addiction crisis accelerated from 2006 to 2012.
The data reported Tuesday by The Washington Post shows that companies distributed 8.4 billion hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to commercial pharmacies in 2006 and 12.6 billion in 2012.
Over that seven-year period, 76 billion bills were distributed in all and prescription opioids contributed to more than 100,000 deaths in the U.S.
The data was released as part of lawsuits by local governments seeking to hold drug companies accountable for the crisis.
The Post and HD Media, which owns newspapers in West Virginia, sued for the information. It has not yet been released to the public or other media outlets.
The federal judge overseeing more than 1,500 lawsuits filed by city and county governments against manufacturers, distributors and retailers over the opioid crisis has ordered the public release of data showing where prescription drugs were distributed nationally before 2013.
Judge Dan Polster, who is based in Cleveland, issued the order Monday saying there is "clearly no basis" for shielding older data maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
A federal appeals court last month ruled Polster went too far in blocking the release of data that government attorneys argued could compromise DEA investigations.
Polster's order asks attorneys for both sides to suggest how data collected after 2012 should be protected.
A committee of attorneys representing the municipal plaintiffs applauded the order, saying the data will show how opioid pills "flooded" communities across the U.S.
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