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.
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 TruthGuest 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
Thursday, December 16, 2021
Season’s Greetings from the UCSF Industry Documents Library
At the end of another challenging year, we’d like to say a big THANK YOU to all of our researchers for your continuing support and connection to the Industry Documents Library.
Here are some of the achievements we reached in 2021
15,194,052 documents now available through IDL!
We added 57,427 new documents to the collections in 2021 (38,927 tobacco, 11,523 drug, and 6,977 food)
In collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, we officially launched the new Opioid Industry Documents Archive and began rapid work on collection development (more news coming soon!)
We worked with the Minnesota Historical Society to ensure that all documents in the tobacco companies' Minnesota Tobacco Document Depository and document websites are preserved, after the Depository closed to the public at the end of August 2021
We developed a set of Technical Recommendations for Preserving Industry Documents Disclosed in Litigation and made these publicly available for use by other librarians, archivists, and legal professionals engaged in document disclosure work
We processed and made public the British American Tobacco Africa Collection, an essential set of documents for investigating tobacco industry bribery and corruption in Africa
We delivered an eight-week Food Industry Documents Archive Training Institute to help global health advocates learn how to search and use industry documents in their work
We hosted three incredible summer interns who worked remotely on metadata enhancement projects and helped us advance our work with natural language processing (NLP)
We added 12 new publications which cite industry documents to our Bibliography
From all of us at the IDL, we wish you a safe and festive holiday season, and a healthy and hopeful New Year ahead.
Kate, Rachel, Rebecca and Sven
Thursday, June 10, 2021
More Opioid, Tobacco and Food Industry Documents Online
Today, IDL staff added 1,266 new industry documents
across 3 archives!