40+ state AGs call for repeal of law stifling DEA's oversight of opioid distributors

Forty-four state attorneys general on Tuesday called on Congress to repeal a law that hinders the Drug Enforcement Administration's ability to regulate the drug industry amid surging opioid overdose deaths, according to a report from The Washington Post.

The move comes after the Post and "60 Minutes" released a joint report in October about the April 2016 passage of legislation that eliminated the DEA's ability to freeze large shipments of opioids from drug distributors to pain clinics suspected of potentially unlawful prescribing practices.

"The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act neither safeguards patient access to medication nor allows for effective drug enforcement efforts," wrote the attorneys general in a letter to Congress, cited by the Post. "We urge you to repeal the act so that the public is protected and drug manufacturers and distributors may be held accountable for their actions."

The Post and "60 Minutes" report included evidence suggesting drug distributors influenced lawmakers to the pass the legislation, while also hiring former DEA attorneys to help craft the law.

Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., one of the legislation's sponsors, defended the law Tuesday, noting it was rewritten by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and passed by President Barack Obama.

"This carefully crafted legislation was put together the way Americans want to see the process operate: transparent and with both parties working together to solve a complex problem," said Mr. Marino, according to the Post. "We must balance the needs of patients — particularly those at end of life who sometimes find access to medicine a desperate challenge — and the needs of law enforcement. As I've done over my career as a prosecutor and a member of Congress, if law enforcement, in this case the DEA, needs additional resources or changes to legislation we will work with them to ensure they have the tools necessary."

After the release of the joint report, Mr. Marino withdrew himself from consideration as President Donald Trump's nominee to head up the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

More articles on opioids: 
Indianapolis files opioid epidemic lawsuit against drugmakers, drug distributors 
Study: 2 most common medication-assisted opioid addiction treatments produce similar results 
8 recent opioid epidemic lawsuits

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