Drug bill prompts rally outside Berks congressman's office

WEST CHESTER, Pa. - As the opioid crisis continues to seep in across the country, a bombshell report on CBS's "60 Minutes" has ignited tensions in the political landscape.

The law in question: the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act. 

The legislation, which was passed and signed into law last year, recently came back into the limelight after a report claimed the bill, sponsored by Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, weakened the DEA, allowing more painkillers to circulate, leading to more drug overdose deaths. 

After the report, Marino withdrew from contention for drug czar.

One co-sponsor of the bill was Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, who represents parts of Berks, Chester, Lebanon, and Montgomery counties. 

Protesters gathered outside his office in West Chester on Friday. They said everyone who co-sponsored the bill is partially responsible for the opioid crisis getting worse. 

"Why would you pass a bill like this that was going to lead to the deaths of so many people?" said protester Lisa Longo. 

Costello said he co-sponsored the bill to give more power to drug enforcement. He added the bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

"The gist of the law was facilitated by a Government Accountability Office report, which said that the DEA was not able to implement a particular rule in order to stop and shut down the unauthorized or mass distribution of pills," said Costello. "What we wanted to do was clarify the language so that they had the teeth to be able to it."

Costello said next Wednesday, he and others will try to get testimony from DEA agents to let Congress know if something needs to change.

"If this law does need fixes, we're going to fix it," he said.

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