Prescription pills photo taken from The National Safety Council's website

HELENA – Montana’s Attorney General, Tim Fox, is among 44 attorneys general asking Congress to repeal a law restricting punishment of prescription drug manufacturers and distributors.

A press release from Fox’s office said the “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act effectively strips the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of its ability to issue an immediate suspension order against drug manufacturers and distributors whose unlawful conduct poses an imminent danger to public health or safety.”

The law that was passed in 2016 redefines ““imminent danger to the public health or safety” to mean “substantial likelihood of an immediate threat of death, serious bodily harm, or abuse of a controlled substance.”

The change essentially expands the requirements needed for the DEA to enforce action against pharmaceutical companies and distributors, making it harder for them to show cause if their “actions pose a threat to public health.”

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The request is in response to the national opioid problem. Last month President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency.

“At a time when increased opioid overdoses continue to cripple communities across the country, it makes no sense to have laws on the books preventing federal agencies from taking justifiable action against drug companies acting unlawfully,” Fox said.

Fox launched an initiative earlier this year to address the growing drug problem in Montana.

“Through my Aid Montana initiative, my office is working to address all aspects of substance abuse in Montana,” Fox said.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton also weighed in on the issue adding that the problem is not just a national crisis, but affects Montana communities as well. Dutton says local first responders have seen 50 drug overdoses in the past six months due to heroin laced with fentanyl.

Joining Attorney General Fox in the letter are attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.