State’s supply runs out after nine executions, it sues to have feds release impounded drugs
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has detained a shipment of approximately 1,000 vials of drugs intended for executions in Texas. After waiting for nearly a year and a half, Texas officials demanded an end to the delays, filing a lawsuit that seeks to force the federal government to turn over the drugs, according to a report by the Dallas Morning News.
“My office will not allow the FDA to sit on its hands and thereby impair Texas’ responsibility to carry out its law enforcement duties,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Lethal injection drugs have not been manufactured or sold by American companies in recent years, and European conglomerates no longer sell to the U.S.
“Amid the drug shortage in 2012, Texas switched from the three-drug cocktail it used since 1982 to a single overdosing injection of pentobarbital, a barbiturate, but that drug, too, is in short supply,” the report states.
The FDA intercepted a shipment of sodium thiopental, another barbiturate that the state had attempted to import from a foreign vendor since July 2015. Government officials said that the drugs lacked the required warnings and directions for use and that they needed federal approval.
According to the report, the state responded to the FDA, explaining that the drugs were legal for importation for law enforcement use. In April 2016, the FDA issued a tentative decision denying admission of the drugs. Since then, the agency hasn’t issued a final decision and has kept the drugs.
“Because FDA’s delay is unreasonable, the Texas Department of Correctional Justice (TDCJ) requests the Court to declare that the delay is unlawful and compel the FDA to render a final admissibility decision,” the lawsuit states.
Texas officials have turned to compounding pharmacies to make drugs. The state has also sought product from foreign providers. It has restricted public access to information about where and how it gets drugs used in lethal injections.
“The Texas Department of Correctional Justice lawfully ordered and obtained the necessary license to import drugs used in the lethal injection process, yet the FDA stopped the shipment and continues to hold it without justification,” the report said.
TDCJ spokesperson Jason Clark said that the agency has enough drugs on hand to complete the nine executions scheduled for the first six months of this year.
From that point forward, “We cannot speculate on the future availability of drugs, so the agency continues to explore all options including the continued use of pentobarbital or alternate drugs to use in the lethal injection process,” Clark said.
–Charles David Henry