Firms object to drug use in Arkansas executions

Posted April 14, 2017

The state reasoned that the fast pace was necessary because one of the lethal injection drugs, midazolam, will expire at the end of the month, and it is unclear when more would be available. The request was filed Wednesday on behalf of Don Davis and Bruce Ward whose executions are set for Monday night.

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.

Arkansas plans to execute seven inmates before the end of April, when its supply of midazolam expires.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office said she's reviewing the filing but continues to expect the executions will go ahead as scheduled.

West-Ward was named by The Associated Press as the likely manufacturer of the state's midazolam, used to sedate an inmate.

London-based Hikma, West-Ward's parent company, said it made "repeated" representation to officials "to confirm if they are in possession of our product which they intend to use in lethal injections, and if so to return it to us". Fresenius said it has made similar overtures to Hutchinson and his staff, but hasn't received any response.

Ahead of the decision protesters demonstrated outside the home of Governor Asa Hutchinson, who sanctioned the executions.

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"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 companies stated in the court filing.

The AP past year used redacted drug labels to identify Hospira, which was purchased by Pfizer, as the likely manufacturer of the third drug in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol.

"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.

That will occur on the same day that a federal court hearing is expected to wrap up with the inmates challenging the state's execution plan.

"Just four months after the US recorded its lowest execution total for a quarter of a century, Arkansas is preparing to buck this positive trend in a shameful race to beat a drug expiration date".

Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005 because of drug shortages and legal challenges. No state has ever executed this many inmates in as short a period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Pfizer has objected to the use of its drugs in lethal injections and has put controls in place to prevent them from being used in executions. Although a federal judge has blocked the execution of 40-year-old Jason McGehee, he remains under threat of execution even if not on 27 April as originally scheduled. Johnson has maintained his innocence throughout his entire time in prison.