Texas says won't return execution drugs to pharmacy facing scrutiny

Reuters

By Carey Gillam

Oct. 7 (Reuters) - Texas officials on Monday refused toreturn lethal drugs they plan to use for an execution this week,despite a demand from the provider which wanted to remainanonymous but has been thrust into a controversy over capitalpunishment.

"The drugs were purchased legally by the agency," the TexasDepartment of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) said on Monday. "TDCJ hasno intention of returning the pentobarbital."

The statement from Texas, which executes more inmates thanany other state, comes at a time when many states are turning tocompounding pharmacies to secure lethal injection supplies aftermajor pharmaceutical manufacturers have said they do not wanttheir drugs used for executions.

The drugs mixed by compounding pharmacies are not approvedby the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and their use inproviding execution drugs has come under fire from capitalpunishment opponents and others, who say the drugs thesepharmacies provide may not be pure and potent and may causeneedless suffering to the codemned.

Texas announced on Oct. 2 that it had purchasedpentobarbital from The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy in TheWoodlands, Texas, near Houston. Two days later, on Oct. 4, Woodlands demanded the drugs be returned in a letter to statecorrections officials and to the state attorney general'soffice. Company owner Jasper Lovoi said he had been promisedsecrecy by the state.

"It was my belief that this information would be kept on the'down low' and that it was unlikely that it would be discoveredthat my pharmacy provided these drugs," Lovoi said in theletter. He demanded that the state "immediately return the vialsof compounded pentobarbital."

A copy of Lovoi's letter was submitted as part of a lawsuitfiled by three inmates on Texas' death row last week.

The inmates sued in part because of the state's efforts torely on a compounding pharmacy for execution drugs. They saiduse of the drugs could be cruel and unusual punishment becausethey are produced by a compounding pharmacy and are not approvedby the FDA, according to court documents.

Among the inmates suing the state is Michael Yowell,scheduled to be executed on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Lynnon Saturday ordered the execution of Yowell to proceed. Yowell'sattorneys said Monday they are appealing that decision to theFifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

"The letter (from the compounding pharmacy) is furtherevidence of the TDCJ's pattern of misconduct with respect totheir efforts to obtain the drugs and how they intend to proceedwith executions," said Maurie Levin, one of the attorneysrepresenting the three inmates.

The Texas case is 4:13-cv-02901 in the U.S. District Courtfor the Southern District of Texas Houston Division.

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