Release data about opioid distribution

Other than the obviously profitable knowledge of where large pockets of vulnerable drug addicts exist, we fail to see what critical trade secrets need to be protected by withholding information about pharmaceutical companies dumping pain pills in communities such as ours in Ohio.

Yet a federal judge is ordering that data on how many opioid pain pills were sold, and where, be kept secret.

Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against drug companies because of their sales of enormous quantities of opioid pain pills in some areas hit hard by substance abuse.

Some information already had been ferreted out. To cite just one example, it is known that during a recent 10-year period, pharmaceutical companies shipped nearly 21 million prescription pain pills to retailers in Williamson, W.Va. The town’s population is less than 3,000.

But access to that sort of data may be limited severely, even cut off, by an order issued last week in Cleveland. There, U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster ruled information on drug companies’ shipments of pain pills cannot be released.

Polster, who is handling more than 800 lawsuits against drug firms, cited two reasons for his ruling.

First, he said, releasing the information would “eviscerate” agreements under which the data was obtained in the first place, presumably by the federal government.

Second, Polster wrote in his order, disclosure would reveal the companies’ trade secrets.

Indeed it would disclose information some of the firms’ executives wish could be kept quiet. Perhaps it could tip off competitors that if one wants to sell lots of opioids to addicts, places like Williamson are good bets.

Whether the data in question was obtained by the government or, perhaps, private attorneys under some type of legally binding contract is one thing.

But this business about revealing trade secrets is utter nonsense.

Polster should rethink his ruling. The only trade secret being safeguarded is knowledge some drug company executives decided profits were more important than preventing human misery.

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