By Eric Eyre, Charleston Gazette-Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va — A federal appeals court has ruled that a judge went too far in blocking the public release of federal data that would show the number of opioid painkillers drug companies have delivered to pharmacies across America.
A 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel on Thursday vacated an order by Cleveland-based U.S. District Judge Dan Polster to keep the information secret. The panel wrote that Polster failed to follow proper legal procedures in determining what information about prescription opioid shipments could be withheld and the reasons why.
Polster is overseeing more than 1,500 lawsuits filed by municipalities against companies that make and distribute prescription painkillers.
The judges called Polster’s ruling to block the release of the data “bizarre,” finding that his statements suggested that he was using the threat of disclosing the information as a “bargaining chip” during settlement talks.
“If that was a motivation … then the district court [Polster] abused its discretion,” the appeals judges wrote in their 18-page opinion. …