A Massachusetts judge ruled on Monday that the state’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for allegedly helping spawn the opioid crisis should be released in full to the public. Previous versions of the suit, which have already provided new details about how the company marketed its blockbuster OxyContin painkiller, contained portions that were redacted.
The complete document could shed light on decisions made by Purdue’s board and how much money company executives made.
The decision from Judge Janet Sanders in Suffolk County Superior Court came in response to a motion filed by media organizations, including STAT and the Boston Globe, to release the full lawsuit, which was originally filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in June.
Sanders ordered that Massachusetts’ complaint had to be made public by noon on Friday. (There was one exception: She said one paragraph that mentioned private medical information of a Purdue official could remain redacted.)
Purdue said in a statement that it planned to ask an appellate court to stay Sanders’ decision.
Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and WBUR joined STAT and the Globe in seeking to release the full document.
The state’s lawsuit also names current and former Purdue executives and members of the Sackler family, who control the privately held company, as defendants.
At a court hearing Friday, Purdue’s attorney had tried to argue that releasing the full complaint would interfere with the collection of company documents in a separate legal case in federal court in Ohio. There, lawsuits from hundreds of tribes, cities, counties, and other states against Purdue and other opioid makers have been bundled together. Purdue said the Massachusetts court should wait to decide what it would make public until authorities in the federal court had determined what company documents they would release and what they would determine was confidential.
“The disclosure of the information — while it may prove embarrassing for some of the defendants — is not intensely personal or private,” Sanders wrote in her opinion. “In essence, the information describes the inner workings of a company and discussions about company business among its directors, officers, and employees. Any interest in keeping this information secret is hardly compelling and certainly not enough to overcome the presumption of public access.”