States want FDA to quit seizing their execution drugs

The FDA has tripped states' efforts to get their hands on execution drugs by seizing drugs the states were trying to get from outside the U.S. supply chain. Now Arizona and Texas are challenging the agency's authority to do that.

The two states have raised objections after the agency seized about $27,000 worth of sodium thiopental in July that was purchased outside of the U.S., saying the drug was unapproved in this country, according to the Associated Press. An attorney for Arizona said in a letter to the FDA released on Wednesday that the state had not violated the FDA rules cited by the agency for grabbing the drugs.

FDA spokesman Jeff Ventura told the AP in a written statement that the agency was reviewing appeals from Arizona and Texas. He said the agency was following standard procedure which allows an importer to "offer testimony as to why the shipment is in compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and should not be refused entry."

The FDA was ordered by a federal judge in 2012 to stop allowing the import of foreign versions of sodium thiopental and seize any shipments. The judge was hearing appeals of death row inmates whose lawyers argued the FDA was violating its own rules by allowing them into the U.S.

States have found it increasingly difficult to buy the drugs they use in execution cocktails as more and more drugmakers have put a tighter leash on wholesalers, making them sign agreements preventing them from selling the drugs to death penalty states for that use.

Arizona has held off on executions since July 2014 after the drug cocktail used resulted in the drawn-out execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood. The AP says that it was revealed afterward that instead of the single dose of midazolam and a painkiller that was supposed to kill Wood, he had to be given 15 doses before he died.

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