Arizona Corrections Using Illegal Drug For Executions

July 23, 2013

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday the Food and Drug Administration should never have approved the importation of an anesthetic drug used in executions by lethal injections. Arizona was among three states that brought the case to the appeals court.The appeals court said the FDA was wrong to allow an unapproved drug to be imported into the U.S. for use in executions. Sodium thiopental is an anesthetic drug used to put inmates to sleep before other lethal drugs are administered.

The three-judge panel confirmed a lower court ruling barring the FDA from allowing the importation of sodium thiopental. It rejected the agency's argument that it had discretion to allow unapproved drugs into the U.S.  

Dale Baich is an Arizona federal public defender. He said Arizona used the drug in two cases since 2010.

“I think this decision suggests the FDA did not follow the law and the Department of Corrections did not follow the law when it imported the drug in 2010,” said Baich.

The Arizona Department of Corrections did not respond to requests for comment on the court’s decision. Currently no executions are scheduled in Arizona.