USA: Federal judge bars import of execution drug-Hands Off Cain

April 4, 2012

Star Tribune, Statesman: March 27, 2012


U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington issued the 22-page decision in a case filed by 21 condemned convicts against the federal Food and Drug Administration, which they alleged had violated its own rules by allowing entry of the powerful anaesthetic into the United States without first ensuring its efficacy.

“Prisoners on death row have an unnecessary risk that they will not be anesthetized properly prior to execution,” Leon wrote in his order. Leon ordered five states — Arizona, California, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee — and any others with stocks of the barbiturate to surrender them to the FDA. According to court filings, the shipments of thiopental entering the United States came from an Austrian facility owned by Sandoz International GmbH.

The drug was shipped from a London wholesaler, Dream Pharma Ltd., which purchased it from a third firm, the Britain-based Archimedes Pharma Ltd., the filings state. A lawyer for the death row challengers, Brad Berenson, said in an email that “it was especially gratifying that the court recognized that even the most despised members of our society are entitled to the protections Congress gave to all Americans in the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.”

“Here, the threatened injury — that unapproved foreign thiopental will fail to anesthetize plaintiffs properly during execution, causing conscious suffocation, pain, and cardiac arrest — is, to say the least, severe,” the judge wrote.

“Indeed, few in our society are more vulnerable than a death row inmate facing lethal injection.”


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