India-based company doesn't want drug used for executions

An India-based company that appears to have made a drug that Arkansas purchased for lethal injections says it doesn't want its products used in the state's plans

By Claudia Lauer
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An India-based company that appears to have made a drug that Arkansas purchased for lethal injections says it doesn't want its products used in the state's plans.

Sun Pharma is the third pharmaceutical firm to make such a comment after The Associated Press obtained redacted photographs of the containers, product inserts and expiration dates of the drugs through a Freedom of Information Act request. The AP contacted the three companies whose unique labels appeared to match the photos when compared with records from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

Sun Pharma spokesman Federick Castro said in an emailed statement that the company prohibits its customers from selling to prisons or other groups that may misuse them for lethal purposes.

"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," Castro wrote.

He did not say whether the company planned to take action to retrieve its product if it was confirmed the state had purchased it.

The Arkansas Department of Correction on June 30 purchased enough of the three drugs in its new protocol to perform eight executions. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson set dates for the state's first executions in almost a decade a few weeks later.

A new law allows the state to keep the source of its execution drugs a secret, and a spokesman for the Department of Correction said last week that law prohibits the state from giving information even to drugmakers.

The labels in the photographs obtained by the AP appear to show that Sun Pharma made the state's supply of vercuronium bromide, a paralytic and muscle relaxant commonly used in surgeries to relax a patient's airway for intubation. Castro's statement did not say whether the company had contacted the state to confirm it had its product.

Last week, London-based Hikma Pharmaceuticals said it was investigating whether Arkansas had bought midazolam made by its New Jersey-based subsidiary West-Ward. An executive said the company had tried to contact the prison department and planned to ask for the drugs to be returned.

Midazolam was implicated after inmates gasped and groaned during longer-than-expected executions last year in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly approved continued use of the drug during executions.

Other labels appear to show that the state's potassium chloride, which stops the heart, was made by Hospira Inc. A written policy statement from the company said it prohibits the sale of the drug and six others to prisons or to entities that plan to use them for lethal injections. The company did not say whether it had contacted the state.

The first two inmates scheduled for execution, Bruce Earl Ward and Don William Davis, had until Monday at noon to file applications for executive clemency with the Arkansas Parole Board. Parole Board spokesman Solomon Graves said Tuesday that neither inmate filed an application.

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