The Washington Post today published a significant portion of a government database that records the flood of prescription opioid pain pills distributed across the United States. Following its exclusive report that drug companies manufactured and shipped some 76 billion opioid pills in the years 2006-2012, The Post has made the data accessible to readers and journalists in order to promote a deeper understanding of the local and regional effects of the opioid crisis.

The Post gained access to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, known as ARCOS, as the result of a court order. The Post and HD Media, which publishes the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, waged a year-long legal battle for access to the database, which the government and the drug industry had sought to keep secret. The database records the path of every pain pill, from manufacturer to pharmacy. The version published by The Post allows readers to learn how much hydrocodone and oxycodone went to individual states and counties, and which companies and distributors were responsible.

“The Post has invested tremendous legal and journalistic resources in obtaining, analyzing and presenting this database. But there is more work to be done – by us, by other journalists and by individuals seeking to learn what has transpired in their own communities. With this database on our site, many others can now contribute to a full understanding of the causes and impact of a devastating opioid epidemic,” said Marty Baron, executive editor at The Post.

As part of its “Opioid Files” investigation, The Post reported Wednesday that death rates soared in the cities and counties where pain pills flowed most copiously, based on a comparison of ARCOS data with federal records of deaths caused by prescription opioids. Additional stories are forthcoming.