Pfizer in fight with states over their intent to use its drugs for executions

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Pfizer is again in the midst of an execution legal battle as it seeks the return of Pfizer drugs that Nevada intends to use in an execution.

Pfizer is in a tug of war with several states that intend to use some of its drugs to carry out executions.

The drugmaker sent letters last month to both Nevada and Nebraska asking for the return of drugs, which include the sedative diazepam and the opioid painkiller fentanyl, if the states intended to use them for executions, the Associated Press reported. The company said it would reimburse the states.

Nevada has already indicated it does not intend to return the drugs, which the state obtained from wholesaler Cardinal Health, the AP reported.

Pfizer declined to comment about the current standoff but said in an email: “We have communicated to the Departments of Correction in the 31 states permitting use of lethal injection for capital punishment that Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment. We have asked all such states to return any Hospira or Pfizer manufactured Restricted Product in their possession and provided them with procedures to follow in return for a full refund.”

States that still use lethal injection for executions have found it increasingly difficult to get the needed products as drugmakers have declared them off limits for executions and wholesalers have added language to contracts that they will not sell the drugs for that use.

A spokesman Tuesday said that Pfizer posted its policy in November 2015 following the acquisition of Hospira. and has updated and revised the policy several times to reflect changes in state protocols. The latest update was in September 2017.

The London-based human rights group Reprieve, told the New York Times last year that the more than 20 U.S. or European companies whose products could potentially be used for executions have now restricted them for moral or business reasons, making them harder for states to get. 

RELATED: Pfizer declares 7 drugs off limits for executions

Nevada, in its first execution in 11 years, wants to use an execution cocktail containing the never-before-tried combination of diazepam, fentanyl and the muscle paralytic cisatracurium, the AP reported. Last week's scheduled execution was delayed while the state supreme court reviews the matter after a state judge rejected the prison system's intent to use cisatracurium in the lethal cocktail. The state attorney general is appealing that decision.  

RELATED: Pfizer, McKesson try to stop Arkansas executions, say state lied to get drugs

Pfizer and wholesaler McKesson got into the middle of an execution legal battle in Arkansas last April when they objected to Arkansas using a Pfizer drug sold by McKesson that they said was not to be used for executions.