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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Accessing the Truth, Advocating for Change

Guest Post by Cynthia Munger
Munger's son is in recovery from opioids. She is a listed officer in the Opioid Spoon Project non-profit, one of the five members of the Purdue Bankruptcy Ad Hoc Committee on Accountability, an active member of Friends of Safehouse, Bankruptcy Legislation Editing Committee, POPN, Participating Member of Interim House Mentor Program, and an active supporter of the Sackler Act. She serves on OIDA’s National Advisory Committee.

If there’s anything most of us living everyday lives never expected, it was to be thrown into the ugly world of opioids. The innocent public knew nothing about these painkillers that were being randomly prescribed back in the 1990s, except of course what was reported by trusted professionals. We naively believed that watchdog agencies like the FDA would never approve dangerous drugs, and that if one slipped through the system, that physicians would immediately report any life-threatening side effects to the appropriate federal, state, and local authorities charged with protecting our health and well-being. Simply put, the trusting public believed our government would never let us suffer decades of deadly abuse from pharmaceutical companies, their supply chain and enablers.

We were dead wrong. And if the past twenty-plus years of opioid deaths, immeasurable societal damage and self-serving and destructive corporate greed have taught us anything, it’s that as citizens, we have very limited means of getting to the truth and even then, sealed documents and lack of transparency work against us. Through our government, courts, and political action, powerful pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma and their equally culpable supply chain—their co-distributors—have been vested with the power to create, manipulate, and remove from record the damaging documents that expose and inform the public of their criminality. Worse, being restricted from relevant data strips the public of its right to know and handicaps us from proactively defending our rights.

Bottom line, the American public, which has suffered the most from the opioid crisis, was further victimized by a lack of information, transparency, and access that can no longer be tolerated.

Now, for the first time, documents that were once shielded from the public are available in mass quantities and at no charge for access by citizen activists and the general public. Thanks to the negotiations of the state attorneys general, behind-the-scenes corporate enablers like McKinsey & Company are being exposed by including the release of incriminating documents as an integral part of the settlement. As a result, we now have access to previously private communications from among Purdue Pharma, Mallinckrodt, Insys leaders, and many other members of the legal cartel of opioid suppliers. We anticipate access to these documents will better position us against powerful lobbyist influence, improve public awareness, and enable us to be better advocates to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.

To do this, OIDA’s National Advisory Committee and the OIDA team have two major challenges. One, educating a beaten down and dismissed public of the direct benefit of a repository that contains vitally important information, and two, understanding and categorizing the formats and types of information, promoting ease of access to archive materials. Our long-term goal is to target and bring attention to opioid-related issues that most threaten the lives of citizens and eventually, set the standard for opioid information access for the public. The materials in the archives give us an opportunity to do this.

The IDL blog publishes a variety of perspectives on the opioid crisis and other matters of public health. Views expressed are the authors' and do not represent the positions of the University of California, San Francisco, or Johns Hopkins University.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

New Tobacco, Food and Opioid Industry Materials Posted

Tobacco Documents Update:
In August of last year, IDL staff conducted a final comprehensive reconciliation of our tobacco documents holdings, matching all Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, Lorillard, Brown & Williamson and American Tobacco Company website records with our own, and adding missing or modified documents to our respective collections. This small batch of additions comes from our continuing reconciliation activities. There are still a handful of outstanding media materials located in the MN Depository that will be digitized and added to TTID at a later date so stay tuned!

Food Industry Documents Update:
New Collection: UC Davis Trade Policy and Health Collection - documents collected via FOIA requests for communications related to food industry influence on global trade policy and health.

3485 new documents posted to the USRTK Food Industry Collection - these materials largely contain communications between the Coca-Cola Company, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, IFIC, and other related scientists/academics regarding ILSI, obesity, sugar and exercise.

97 documents added to the Fredrick Stare Papers - this batch of new documents completes our collection of Stare Papers. Dr. Stare was an American nutritionist regarded as one of the country’s most influential teachers of nutrition. In 1942, Stare founded the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, now the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In 1978, Stare co-founded and served as chairman of the Board of Directors for the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Our holdings now total 14,461 documents.

Opioid Industry Documents Update:
46 deposition videos uploaded to the Mallinckrodt Litigation Documents.
These videotaped depositions of Mallinckrodt employees and executives were taken in the opioid lawsuits and complement the already existing deposition transcripts.


UCSF is now an institutional member of the Qualitative Data Repository!
The Qualitative Data Repository (QDR) is a dedicated archive for storing and sharing data (and accompanying documentation) generated or collected through qualitative and mixed-method research. UCSF researchers can use QDR to discover qualitative data for secondary research, and to share their own research data to satisfy publisher and funder data sharing requirements, including the new NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy. As institutional members, UCSF researchers can deposit their data in QDR for free by signing up with their UCSF email. Learn more about this exciting development.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

"Documents are a gift to researchers, justice-seekers and students..."

Guest Post by Charlotte Bismuth
Bismuth is a former prosecutor and the author of Bad Medicine: Catching New York’s Deadliest Pill Pusher, as well as a member of FedUp!’s Advocacy Committee. She serves on UCSF-Johns Hopkins University OIDA’s National Advisory Committee.

As a junior associate at a big New York City law firm in the early 2000s, I spent my days—and nights—conducting document review. It was not considered to be a choice assignment, but quickly grew into an obsession. With the latest release of Mallinckrodt and McKinsey documents, journalists and the public have a unique opportunity to further explore the cause of accountability in the opioid epidemic.

The “document review” process, circa 2004, began when the firm received boxes upon boxes upon boxes of company records. We hired contractors to scan them into PDF form, then worked with our tech specialists to devise scanning protocols (indicating how we wanted folders, stapled documents, paper-clipped documents or loose assortments to be represented, as well as the numbers to be stamped at the bottom). These “Bates” numbers, popping up on the bottom right corner of every page through which we subsequently rifled, populated our nightmares. I still think of all this work today: there is so much invisible and essential labor in the creation of an electronic collection of images that are not only relevant but presented in their authentic form.

Once the documents had been uploaded into the software program we used for review, we designed protocols for hierarchical tagging systems, which meant every sheet of paper would be categorized, analyzed and ranked by its content, creator, date, topic, relevance or “hotness.” Senior partners could then review their black binders of critical documents with the knowledge that everything below had been filtered by everyone below. As we made our way through each set of documents, we worked with the tech team to roll out “productions” in paper and electronic form, with accompanying privilege logs and cover letters. The entire process was rife with potential dangers: one missed redaction, one unintended enclosure, and your reputation would be toast. I still tremble at the memory of a few all-caps email messages I received in the middle of the night, on my Blackberry, calling me to task for a Bates number error or unintentionally blank sheet.

My obsession with document review thus originated from self-preservation and fear. It developed into a passion when I prepared my first deposition. The defendant was a former New York State corrections officer who’d been accused of raping a female inmate. Though I had my binder of “hot docs” at the ready, it was my understanding of the body of documents we had obtained—their substance, their deficiencies and their gaps—that allowed me to maintain a sense of direction and achieve our deposition goals.

A few years later, as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, I was working with a junior ADA on an investigation. It was “impossible,” he complained, to get through all the cell phone records we’d obtained in the time we had. It took me a moment to understand that he, unlike me, was not in a state of grateful enchantment before this trove of information.

Before long, I was applying my document review skills to a landmark opioid prosecution. My case—involving a corrupt physician who sold controlled substance prescriptions in exchange for cash—was one of many that followed in the wake of Purdue Pharma’s fraudulent marketing of OxyContin. Without my “BigLaw” document skills, I never would have been able to marshal the volume of documentary evidence we needed to build the homicide, insurance fraud and reckless endangerment angles of the case. And ironically, I’ve since applied those skills—developed at the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, which represents Side B of the Sackler family—to support activists fighting against the Sacklers.

Documents are a gift to researchers, justice-seekers and students. Everything and everyone leaves a trace. The truth may not always be what you expect, but skillful, careful and honest document review will allow you to make your peace with it.

The possibilities for research and reporting using OIDA documents are rich, as we’ve already seen with Washington Post, Salon, and New York Times articles. I hope someone will choose to go through these documents with an eye to the contributions of the sales representatives and their supervisors, as well as the middle-level executives and the marketing teams. We—justly—have focused on members of the Sackler family and other high-profile industry leaders in seeking accountability for the opioid epidemic, but where are their foot soldiers now? In which industries are they peddling their skills at selling lies? I’ve taken just a few names and followed them into high-level pharmaceutical positions: who will conduct a more thorough examination? Have any of these individuals been held to task for their choices? Admitted their mistakes? Contributed any part of their ill-gotten gains to victims or any of their time to hard-hit communities?

Documents allow us to verify facts and rebuild a disappeared world: in the case of the opioid epidemic, the OIDA documents may well help us repair the damage and prevent this tragedy from ever happening again.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Over 114,000 McKinsey Documents Posted

This week, more than 114,000 documents were posted in a new McKinsey Documents collection within the UCSF-JHU Opioids Industry Documents Archive.

These documents are related to McKinsey & Company's work as a management consulting firm for the opioid industry. They show how McKinsey advised opioid makers Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson and Mallinckrodt to help them increase sales, despite the growing public outcry over the opioid epidemic. The documents come from the company’s files between 2004 and 2019 and are being released under the terms of the $573 million settlement that McKinsey reached with 47 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia in February 2021.

Read the Press Releases: June 30, 2022: New Documents Show McKinsey’s Role in Opioid Epidemic via UCSF News, via Johns Hopkins University News

Read the New York Times's McKinsey investigation: Behind the Scenes, McKinsey Guided Companies at the Center of the Opioid Crisis - (Chris Hamby, Michael Forsythe, The New York Times, June 29, 2022)
Tuesday, May 10, 2022

1.4 Million Mallinckrodt Documents Released

The Opioid Industry Documents Archive, hosted by University of California, San Francisco and Johns Hopkins University, is a free and public digital archive of opioid litigation documents, including previously unseen evidence on how and why the opioid epidemic happened — shedding light on this tragedy so that a crisis like this will never happen again.

Today we added 1.4 million documents to the Opioid Industry Documents Archive from Mallinckrodt, a leading generic opioid manufacturer now in bankruptcy. The company is one of many in the opioid industry currently implicated in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people due to misleading marketing, sales, distribution, dispensing, and governance practices. The Mallinckrodt company agreed to release documents produced during litigation as part of their settlement in recent legal cases with the plaintiffs.

Starting today, the documents in the archive are available to and searchable by the public, including families impacted by the opioid crisis as well as the media, healthcare practitioners, students, lawyers, and researchers. We invite everyone to search the archives for the truth.

Read the Press Releases: May 10, 2022: Opioid Industry Archive Releases 1.4 Million Documents from Leading Opioid Maker Implicated in Drug Crisis
via UCSF News, via Johns Hopkins University News Releases

Read the Washington Post's Mallinckrodt investigation: Inside the sales machine of the 'kingpin' of opioid makers- (Meryl Kornfield, Scott Higham and Steven Rich, The Washington Post, May 10, 2022)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

State AG Perspective: Exposing the Truth

Guest post by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella, New York Attorney General Letitia James, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares

Today’s disclosure of more than a million documents from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, one of the country’s most prolific opioid sellers, is an important step to expose the truth and prevent a manmade crisis like the opioid epidemic from ever happening again.

Drug companies profited by pushing dangerous prescription opioids, and Americans have become the biggest users of opioids in the world. Communities across our nation suffered the consequences as a result: addiction, overdose, and death.

Families most impacted by the crisis have led the way in advocating for justice. Parents whose own children died because of the opioid crisis have dedicated years of their lives to protect others. They demanded that lawbreakers be held accountable, failed systems be reformed, and urgent investments be made for harm reduction, treatment, recovery, and prevention.

State Attorneys General heard the calls for action and acted. Working together, across party lines and across the nation, our teams conducted a searching investigation of illegal conduct throughout the opioid industry. We filed lawsuits and won verdicts from judges and juries, forcing companies to pay tens of billions of dollars that will be dedicated to address the crisis.

An essential part of justice is exposing the truth. Our teams pursued that truth for years. Our efforts resulted in the public disclosure of millions of documents and of the critical facts revealed by witnesses ranging from drug sales reps to company presidents.

We rejected the companies’ attempts to keep the evidence sealed, or to hand it back to the perpetrators. Instead, we posted it online.

For the first time in a generation, since the landmark tobacco cases, an industry’s secrets are being turned over to the public. Under orders entered by courts throughout the nation, millions of opioid industry documents will be posted in a free public archive, in perpetuity.

The families who suffered in this crisis will be able to see for themselves the evidence that we uncovered – the company emails, board minutes, and business plans that changed so many lives.

Journalists, filmmakers, artists, and scholars will tell the story of this epidemic using the real words and actions of the people who drove the opioid business.

Policymakers throughout the country will be informed by what went wrong.

Executives, directors, and employees in every industry will know that, if they break the law and endanger the public, the whole world may see what they did.

Today is a step toward justice. We are grateful to the advocates who demanded action in the face of a devastating crisis, to our staff who work every day to serve the public, and to the archivists at the University of California San Francisco and Johns Hopkins who will preserve this evidence for the public good.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

New McKinsey Litigation Documents Posted to OIDA

Since our last update in 2021 we have been hard at work behind the scenes processing several million new documents for the UCSF-JHU Opioid Industry Documents Archive (OIDA). We’re excited to make several hundred of these documents public today, with many more to be released in the coming months. We’d like to especially recognize and thank our OIDA collaborators at Johns Hopkins University for their contributions to this project and we look forward to continuing this work together.

317 McKinsey Litigation Documents Released

The UCSF-JHU Opioid Industry Documents Archive (OIDA) added 317 new documents to its collections today. These documents relate to McKinsey's consulting work for Purdue Pharma, as covered in the New York Times today.

OIDA is currently processing millions of pages of additional documents arising from opioid litigation which will be released in the months to come. OIDA is a state-of-the-art, free digital archive of litigation documents advancing understanding of root causes of the worst drug epidemic in our country’s history so as to prevent future harms.

Welcome Melissa Ignacio!!

We are thrilled to welcome Melissa Ignacio to the IDL team as our new IDL Program Coordinator. Melissa will be supporting planning and project management activities for IDL, especially our work on opioid industry documents. Read more about Melissa in Library News.