Lawyer files complaint over British execution drug

19th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

A lawyer representing a death row inmate executed with an anesthetic imported from Britain is urging US officials to launch an investigation on the use of the drug.

Dale Baich, with the Federal Public Defender's office in Phoeniz, Arizona made his request to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the southwestern state executed 48-year-old Jeffrey Landrigan on October 26 using imported sodium thiopental.

For months now, several US states have struggled to find supplies of the powerful painkiller, the first and most crucial of three drugs used in lethal injections. The shortage has forced some states to put executions on hold.

Others have taken desperate measures, like Oklahoma, where a court ruling is pending on an anesthetic used to put down animals.

"I am writing to request that your office initiate an investigation into this importation of non-FDA approved sodium thiopental for sale and distribution," Baich wrote in a letter to the federal agency obtained by AFP on Thursday.

"My understanding is that foreign-made thiopental is not approved for use on humans in this country."

The only US pharmaceutical company that manufactures sodium thiopental, Hospira, is currently out of stock and will not be able to resume production until the first quarter of 2011.

And Hospira's most recent batch is nearing its 2011 expiration date.

In late October, California and Arizona said they had found means to obtain batches of the drug, while refusing to divulge their origin.

After days of legal battles, the Supreme Court authorized Landrigan's execution. Arizona's attorney general leaked to local press the fact that the state's thiopental supplies came from Britain.

At the time, the FDA said it was unaware the product had been imported and confirmed its authorization was necessary before using an anesthetic made outside the United States.

© 2010 AFP

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