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States to try new ways of executing prisoners. Their latest idea? Opioids.

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The synthetic painkiller fentanyl has been the driving force behind the nation’s opioid epidemic, killing tens of thousands of Americans last year in overdoses. Now two states want to use the drug’s powerful properties for a new purpose: to execute prisoners on death row.
As Nevada and Nebraska push for the country’s first fentanyl-assisted executions, doctors and death penalty opponents are fighting those plans. They have warned that such an untested use of fentanyl could lead to painful, botched executions, comparing the use of it and other new drugs proposed for lethal injection to human experimentation.
States are increasingly pressed for ways to carry out the death penalty because of problems obtaining the drugs they long have used, primarily because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply their drugs for executions.
The situation has led states such as Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma to turn to novel drug combinations for executions. Mississippi legalized nitrogen gas this s…

Pfizer Says Execution Drugs Sold to Arkansas Without Knowing

Pfizer Inc. said drugs that can be used to execute inmates by lethal injection were sold to the Arkansas Department of Corrections without its knowledge by the distributor McKesson Corp., in violation of the drugmaker’s policy.

The statement followed a report in the New Yorker that the state of Arkansas was planning to execute seven people before the end of April, after which the lethal injection drugs will expire.

Pfizer and other companies have attempted to block the use of their products in lethal injections. In this case, according to Pfizer, the drugs were sold to the state by San Francisco-based McKesson, one of the U.S.’s largest distributors of pharmaceuticals.

“Without Pfizer’s knowledge, McKesson, a distributor, sold the product to” the Arkansas Department of Corrections, Pfizer said in a statement. “This was in direct violation of our policy.” The drugmaker said it twice asked the state to return the drugs.

“We considered other means by which to secure the return of the product, up to and including legal action,” Pfizer said in the statement. “After careful consideration, we determined that it was highly unlikely that any of these means would secure the timely return of the product and thereby prevent this misuse.”

In a statement Thursday, McKesson also said that Arkansas “intentionally sought to circumvent McKesson’s policies” and that vercuronium bromide was procured “under the auspices that it would be used for medical purposes.” McKesson requested that the product be returned and refunded, Kristin Hunter, a spokeswoman, said in the statement. The company is now considering “all possible means by which to secure the return of the product, up to and including legal action.”

The Arkansas Department of Corrections didn’t respond to a request for comment made after business hours. Rachel Hooper, a spokeswoman for New York-based Pfizer, declined to say whether Pfizer would take any other action against McKesson for violating the policy.

Source: Bloomberg, April 14, 2017

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