The Opioid Industry Documents Archive: A Digital Treasure Trove Of Over 3,000 Legal Documents


A collaboration between the University of California, San Francisco and Johns Hopkins University, the Opioid Industry Documents Archive, which was launched late last month, represents “a digital repository of publicly disclosed documents from recent judgments, settlements, and ongoing lawsuits concerning the opioid crisis,” says a Bloomberg School of Public Health report posted on the Johns Hopkins University website. 

The archive includes the following types of documents from opioid prescription manufacturers, distributors, and obtained from lawsuits filed by government entities against opioid makers:

  • Emails 
  • Meeting agendas
  • Expert witness reports
  • Depositions of drug company executives
  • Audit reports
  • Memos 
  • Presentations
  • Sales reports
  • Budgets
  • Drug Enforcement Administration briefings

The collaboration between Johns Hopkins University and UCSF is a nexus of several disciples, including library science, information technology, and digital archiving. In addition to the documents, the archive contains information on the history of medicine, pharmaceutical policy and clinical care. 

No fee is required to access the archive. It will be free to anybody who wants to learn more about the opioid epidemic, which has killed almost half a million people. The project will be continuously updated as public information becomes available, and will ultimately house over 250,000 documents from Insys, an opioid manufacturer that declared bankruptcy because of opioid lawsuits. 

Ellen MacKenzie of Bloomberg School of Public Health said, per Johns Hopkins University’s website, “These documents will provide researchers and scholars valuable insights into how an addiction crisis takes hold in a society. By investigating these documents and making them publicly available, our hope is to prevent a public health challenge like the opioid epidemic from arising in the future.”

A project of this scope does have precedent. UCSF’s Truth Tobacco Industry Documents archive, says Bloomberg School of Public Health, helped shape tobacco policy in the U.S. and much of the world. The treasure trove of documents may be used in a similar fashion and “deliver a wealth of information that experts can analyze to help policymakers prevent another disaster like this from happening again,” per the Bloomberg report.

According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors’ most recent analysis, the opioid epidemic cost $696 billion in 2018 and more than $2.5 trillion between 2015 and 2018.

As of this writing, the archive contains over 130,000 pages from 3,300 documents from the following six categories: 

A longer version of this article appears here.

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