Health

Arkansas Won't Say If It Bought Drugs For Executions From Companies That Oppose Executions

| by Michael Allen
Arkansas SignArkansas Sign

The State of Arkansas may be planning to use three drugs for executions even though the drug manufacturers forbid their drugs to be used for that purpose.

The Associated Press used a Freedom of Information Act to get redacted pictures of drug containers, descriptions and expiration dates that were bought by the Arkansas Department of Correction on June 30 for $24,226.

Based on those findings, Sun Pharma, a drug company based in India, is trying to find out if the State of Arkansas bought and used its drug, vercuronium bromide, to use for lethal injections.

Sun Pharma spokesman Federick Castro told the Associated Press in an email:

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We currently require our customers to certify that they will prohibit the use and sale of such products to other customers and members that may administer lethal injections or which may sell to facilities that administer lethal injections.

However, Arkansas Department of Correction spokeswoman Cathy Frye said, "State law mandates that we withhold that information, regardless of who is requesting it.”

Arkansas also appears to have purchased potassium chloride, a drug manufactured by Hospira Inc. The company told the Associated Press that it does not allow the sale of its drug for lethal injections.

Hikma Pharmaceuticals, a British drug company, asked the Arkansas Department of Correction if it bought its drug for executions, but, again, the state cited its own law and refused to say.

Arkansas appears to have purchased a powerful sedative for executions from a Hikma subsidiary, West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, in New Jersey.

Susan Ringdal, a vice-president at Hikma, told the Associated Press:

We have been trying to contact the Arkansas (Department of Correction) to confirm that they have our product and, if confirmed, to ask them to return it to us.

We continue to strongly object to our product being used for lethal injection. We are also auditing our sales and distribution channels to try to determine how they might have gotten our product.

Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge’s office has supported the Arkansas Department of Correction's quote of state law, but lawyers for death row inmates are challenging the law, which they claim is unconstitutional.

“The Arkansas law, which seeks to shroud execution in secrecy, does not affect these independent contractual rights, nor does it immunize Arkansas from liability if the state improperly obtains or utilizes drugs for executions,” Katherine Toomey, a lawyer who handles international commercial issues, stated.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas recently announced that eight inmates will be executed in October, but refused to comment on the possibly illegal drug purchases by claiming it is “a matter for the Department of Correction."

However, it could be a matter for the federal government. The Drug Enforcement Administration seized some sodium thiopental from the State of Arkansas in 2011 over questions about how the state obtained the drug.

Sources: Associated Press via Houston Chronicle (2 via The Guardian) / Photo Credit: ErgoSum88/Wikimedia