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Court stops execution over lethal drug dispute

Publish date: 13 July 2018
Issue Number: 4501
Diary: Legalbrief Today
Category: Litigation

A Nevada execution, which would have been the first in the US to use the synthetic opioid fentanyl, has been delayed by a judge. Pharmaceutical firm Alvogen argued the state had illegitimately obtained one of its drugs and that the proposed drug combination was untested in executions, reports BBC News. Scott Raymond Dozier, a twice-convicted killer, had been scheduled for execution on Wednesday night. Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez issued the ruling after Alvogen argued that the prison had tricked their distributor into selling the drug, despite the company's known objection to selling it for executions. Officials had planned to use an untried three-drug lethal injection made up of the sedative midazolam, the synthetic opioid fentanyl and the muscle paralytic cisatracurium. The drug cocktail is meant to slow breathing and eventually paralyse the prisoner's muscles to stop their breathing. Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid at the heart of the US opioid epidemic, has never been used in an execution, but it was midazolam at the centre of Alvogen's last-minute lawsuit. The company said it did not want its drugs used in 'botched' executions, according to court documents. Alvogen also claims the prison obtained its midazolam illegally, 'despite a clear and unambiguous prior warning' from the company that they could not acquire it from company or a third party. The lawsuit also alleges that prison officials acknowledged attempts to conceal the fact that they had obtained the midazolam. Alvogen notes that midazolam was used in several 'botched' executions, including that of Clayton Lockett in 2014, where Lockett regained consciousness during his execution and died 40 minutes later of a heart attack.

Full BBC News report