Pharmaceutical International News - June 2012
FDA in Lethal Injection Anaesthetic Court Case
Posted by Paul Fiddian - Pharmaceutical International's Lead Reporter on 01/06/2012 - 09:00:00
The US FDA is taking legal action to ensure it can get hold of supplies of the drug sodium thiopental, which is used as an anaesthetic prior to lethal injections being given to prisoners.
This drug hasn't been made in the United States since 2009 so, from then onwards, the Food and Drug Administration had been buying-in batches from overseas.
However, in March of this year, a US judge placed a ban on sodium thiopental imports and, added to this, EU regulators now have restrictions in place on the export of execution-based drugs.
Lethal Injection Anaesthetic
The March ruling saw the judge involved, Richard Leon, uphold a case spearheaded by 21 death row prisoners who said that the administration should not be allowed to let prisons obtain the lethal injection anaesthetic from overseas sellers without ensuring its efficacy.
Specifically, Leon held that the FDA had contravened its own rules through permitting sodium thiopental to be imported without carrying out safety checks. It therefore had manufactured an "unnecessary risk", he said, with the potential that prisoners could fail to be "anesthetized properly prior to execution."
FDA Anaesthetic Court Case
While the administration is now taking on the case of Beaty v. Food and Drug Administration, 1:11-cv- 00289, it may be some months before an outcome to this FDA anaesthetic court case emerges.
Lethal injections are still given to death row prisoners in no less than 33 US states. Among them is Oklahoma but, here, it's pentobarbital that's used to anaesthetise, pre-execution. This, too, is in short supply and, according to some, the increasing unavailability of these drugs has resulted in fewer executions being carried out.
"There have certainly been shortages which have caused many states to slow the rate of executions", campaign organisation Reprieve's Maya Foa explained to the BBC, adding: "It's also raised the cost: there have been moratoria over the past year and a half while states scramble to find more drugs."
Pharmaceutical International will revisit this story in future News coverage.
Image copyright T Woodard - Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
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