House passes measure to require pharmacies, DEA to work together

A bill to fight prescription drug abuse without restricting access for those with legitimate needs passed the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday.

The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act requires much greater collaboration between drug suppliers and federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to better respond to a growing problem, according to U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Cogan Station, who sponsored the bill.

“Last year, a pharmacist from Pennsylvania told me about problems he had in accessing necessary prescriptions for cancer patients dealing with chronic pain,” Marino said. “Ultimately, this raised serious concerns about problems in the prescription drug supply chain that threatened access and effective enforcement.”

Marino hailed the passage as a bipartisan victory. Cosponsors were both Democrats and Republicans, he said.

If the bill becomes law, it will clarify compliance instructions from the Drug Enforcement Agency for those who supply and dispense prescription drugs.

Marino said the law ensures that the agency does not abuse its authority.

“It makes the DEA get serious about collaborating with pharmacies,” he said, adding that he’d been made aware of instances in which the agency accused prescription drug suppliers of being responsible for those who abuse the drugs.

The bill will help identify where in the chain of supply abuse is taking place, according to the congressman.

“It makes the DEA describe what they see out there so we can come up with some solutions,” he said of the bill, which gives suppliers and pharmacies the opportunity to fix problems with the system before punitive actions are taken.

The legislation was passed by way of a voice vote.