Pharmaceutical firm wants lethal injection drugs returned

AP News
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Posted: May 06, 2015 4:41 PM
Pharmaceutical firm wants lethal injection drugs returned

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A drugmaker has asked states to return supplies of the company's products that could be used for lethal injection in a broad request that included states that don't use the drugs in question.

Lake Forest, Illinois-based Akorn sent the letter in March to attorney general's offices in states including Alabama, Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Texas.

Akorn strongly objects to the use of its products in capital punishment, and using the drugs for lethal injection violates federal drug regulations and may also violate federal drug laws, the company said in the March 4 letter referring to midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller.

"Additionally, such use is contrary to Akorn's commitment to promote the health and wellness of human patients," according to the letter from general counsel Joseph Bonaccorsi.

Neither the company nor its distributors will sell the drugs directly to prisons and distributors will use their best efforts to keep drugs from getting to prisons in other ways, the letter said.

Bonaccorsi did not return messages left by The Associated Press. Several states that confirmed receiving the letter to the AP didn't plan a response to Akorn.

It's unclear what triggered Akorn's letter, which appeared to go only to states with the death penalty, or even if any of the states obtained those drugs from Akorn for use in executions. The only two states that have used the two-drug combo in executions, Arizona and Ohio, had previously dropped the drugs after problematic executions.

Ohio says it didn't get either drug from Akorn. The state adopted a new lethal injection policy earlier this year calling for single doses of drugs it has had difficulty obtaining in the past. Executions are on hold until next year while Ohio tries to find those drugs.

In Oregon, capital punishment has been on hold since 2011, and its previous rules called for a single dose of pentobarbital. Court challenges have halted executions in Pennsylvania, where the state's lethal injection drugs don't include those named by Akorn.

Texas, which also received the letter and doesn't plan to respond, uses compounded pentobarbital whose source the state won't identify.

Alabama's system calls for midazolam as the first of a three-drug protocol, as does Florida's. In Oklahoma, the prisons agency says it had obtained drugs to carry out three executions that have been delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether the use of midazolam is appropriate for capital punishment.

States have been scrambling to find new drug supplies or adopt new execution methods as drugmakers clamp down on their products' use in capital punishment.

Oklahoma enacted a law allowing nitrogen gas as an alternative, Utah reinstated the firing squad and Tennessee brought back the electric chair as a backup.

Other drugmakers including Hospira, also based in Lake Forest, Illinois, have stopped selling drugs for use in executions.

States that confirmed they received the Akorn letter: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.