Death row inmates sue to stop importation of drug used in executions
February 5th, 2011
10:48 PM ET

Death row inmates sue to stop importation of drug used in executions

Six death row inmates have filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from importing a drug used in executions that's no longer available in the United States.

Hospira, the only U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic used as part of the lethal three-drug cocktail, announced last month that it would stop making the product, saying it never intended it to be used to kill people.

But the FDA continues to allow states to import "bulk amounts" of the drug for use in lethal injection without vetting it to ensure it meets regulatory standards, the lawsuit states.

"The imported thiopental in question has not been listed with FDA, was manufactured by foreign companies that have not registered with FDA, and was exported by a wholesaler located in the United Kingdom," claims the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

"FDA has not determined whether the thiopental being imported into the United States is safe and effective, whether the imported thiopental is adulterated, or whether the imported thiopental is counterfeit."

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of inmates in Arizona, California and Tennessee, seeks an injuction barring future imports of the drug and removal of supplies of the drug already in possession of state governments.

An FDA spokesman declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

The shortage in the United States of sodium thiopental, which is also used as an anesthetic for brief surgical procedures, has forced states to look outside the country for a supply or come up with alternatives, and not without controversy.

In December, Oklahoma used an anesthetic commonly used to euthanize animals to execute John David Duty for killing a cellmate.

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Filed under: Arizona • California • Death Penalty • Lawsuit • Tennessee
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Eggs Benedict

    I read the story several times – what state was the law suit filed at? And.....if that specific drug is not available, there are plenty of others with the same efficacy. Let go. Too many people on death row for too long.

    February 7, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. Philip

    @Jason and @David...it's "Thou shalt not commit MURDER". If you continue reading, you will find scriptures where one is required to kill. 'Killing' and 'Murdering' are NOT the same thing. G-E-T a clue already.

    February 7, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. dm559

    Guess it's time to bring back hangings and firing squad

    February 7, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. michael mobley

    No One Should Jugde No Man Nor Woman. Ever One Deserve A Second Chance. Put One Of The Congress People Kid On Death Row And C Wat The Results B. C If They Make It To Prison. They Want Just Because Who The Parents R. Thats How The System Work.

    March 16, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
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