Ohio to use execution drugs combination never tried in U.S.

Reuters

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Ohio said on Monday that itdoes not have enough of the drug pentobarbital to carry out ascheduled execution next month and will turn to a combination oftwo drugs that a death-penalty expert said has never been usedbefore in the United States.

Ohio is the latest of several U.S. states looking to newsuppliers or new drugs for use in lethal injections. With majorpharmaceutical companies discouraging use of their products inexecutions, these states have tapped lightly regulated"compounding pharmacies" or turned to new drugs for executions.

The Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital, Lundbeck LLC, has banned its sale to prisons or correctionsdepartments for the death penalty. The European Union, of whichDenmark is a member, is opposed to the death penalty and has putpressure on U.S. states to stop the practice.

Ohio prison officials notified the state on Monday that theydo not have "sufficient quantity" of pentobarbital to carry outthe execution of Ronald Phillips on Nov. 14, according toDepartment of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman JoEllenSmith. Phillips was convicted in 1993 of raping and murderinghis girlfriend's three-year-old daughter.

She said the state will turn to a combination of the drugsmidazolam and hydromorphone, for the November execution.

"No other state has used these two drugs in an execution,"said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death PenaltyInformation Center, which opposes capital punishment.

Florida used midazolam along with two other drugs in anexecution on Oct. 15, but not with hydromorphone, he said.

According to the Food and Drug Administration database ofdrugs, Midazolam injections are marketed by a number ofcompanies including Fresenius Kabi USA, a unit of the Germandrugmaker, and hydromorphone and midazolam are both marketed byHospira Inc and Akorn.

Fresenius Kabi suspended shipments of another drug,propofol, to a U.S. distributor earlier this year after theGerman company learned that some of it had been sold to thestate of Missouri for executions. Missouri eventually returnedthe drug.

Hospira started the scramble for alternative drugs in 2011when it halted production of the only source in the U.S. ofsodium thiopental, then widely used in executions.

Ohio did not say where it purchased supplies of midazolamand hydromorphone. A lawyer for Phillips declined to comment atthis time.

Ohio earlier this month published a new execution guidelinewhich allowed the state to seek pentobarbital from a compoundingpharmacy, a type of supplier that is not closely regulated bythe FDA. Compounding pharmacies still have supplies ofpentobarbital but run the risk of public criticism if theysupply the drug for executions and their name becomes public.

The name of a Houston company that had providedpentobarbital to the state of Texas, The Woodlands CompoundingPharmacy, was disclosed earlier this month, prompting a strongcomplaint from the company that it had been promised secrecy bythe state.

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