Manufacturers of drugs often used for lethal injections have asked a judge to stop them from being used in states plan to execute seven men in 11 days
Two drugmakers have asked a judge to stop the use of their medicines for executions in Arkansas, which plans to kill seven men over 11 days before the states supply of a lethal injection drug expires.
Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturers of two drug compounds often used for executions in the US, filed amicus briefs in district court in Arkansas on Thursday. When the medicines could be used to protect life, they are instead being used to end it, attorneys for the companies wrote in court documents.
Both corporations have policies to prevent supplies of their drugs ending up in the service of executions, for instance barring distributors from selling to prisons or delivering drugs to other middlemen.
It appears that these controls have been bypassed, the attorneys wrote, adding that unauthorized medicines were more likely to be adulterated due to improper handling, for example, the failure to maintain proper temperature levels during storage and transport.
Fresenius Kabi manufactures potassium chloride, the drug that prison officials use to stop the heart, and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals manufactures midazolam, the controversial sedative that Arkansas has in short supply. Midazolam has been at the center of a series of botched executions in which prisoners struggled at length before dying, and a handful of states have abandoned the sedative. In January, a judge in Ohio blocked the states use of the drug.
Both companies said they had no record of direct or indirect sales to the Arkansas department of correction.
The only conclusion is that these medicines were acquired from an unauthorized seller in violation of important contractual terms that the manufacturers relied on, the attorneys wrote.
More significantly, the use of the medicines for lethal injections creates a public-health risk by undermining the safety and supply of lifesaving medicines, the lawyers added. The use of the medicines in lethal injections runs counter to the manufacturers mission to save and enhance patients lives.
The lawyers also noted that the European Union had strict regulations for products that can be used for capital punishment, meaning that Arkansas actions could convince officials to reduce the supply of medicines for fear of indirectly abetting executions.
Neither the office of Arkansass governor, Asa Hutchinson, nor the states department of corrections immediately replied to phone calls or an email.
Neither corporation took any position on capital punishment itself. The third drug that Arkansas intends to use for the execution, vecuronium bromide, appears to have been made by Hospira, a subsidiary of Pfizer. Executives at the drug giant have said they oppose the use of their drugs in executions, but a spokesperson for the corporation did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Arkansas has a strict secrecy law surrounding its execution procedures, and has refused to say how it acquired the drugs it intends to use. The state has conceded in court that it persuaded a third-party supplier to resell drugs, despite the terms of its contract.
Arkansas deliberately engineered a breach in these companies contracts in order to obtain these drugs, undermining the interests of the healthcare industry and putting public health at risk, said Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, a human rights-focused not-for-profit organization.
The companies are understandably appalled at the prospect of their medicines being used in Americas largest mass execution since the civil rights era, she added.
Should the state execute the seven men between 17 and 27 April, it would be the most executions within a few days since the supreme court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.