Court documents released late Tuesday revealed drug companies increased their distribution of pills like hydrocodone and oxycodone by the billions.
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According to federal data cited in a case being overseen by a federal judge in Cleveland, Ohio, 76 billion opioid pills were given to pharmacies between 2006 and 2012.
The Washington Post and HD media sued to get the information released by Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing 1,500 lawsuits filed by local governments against companies involved in the distribution of the powerful painkillers.
Polster argued there wasn't any basis to the government's argument that the release of the data, gathered by the Drug Enforcement Administration, would compromise ongoing investigations.
The data shows 8.4 billion pills were distributed to commercial pharmacies in 2006; in 2012 that number increased to 12.6 billion.