Texas prison system sues over execution drugs seized by FDA

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Published 2:54 pm, Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Texas prison system filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the Food and Drug Administration, demanding the release of 1,000 vials of an imported drug used in lethal injections that were confiscated at Houston Intercontinental Airport.

The suit comes just days aft er the FDA ruled that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice could not bring the drugs into the country because the shipment violated federal regulations requiring warning labels be affixed to drug packaging.


The vials of thiopental sodium were seized in July 2015 after arriving by airfreight from an unspecified foreign country, according to court documents. On Friday, the FDA made official its ruling that the TDCJ could not bring the drugs into the country, and ordered the drugs destroyed or shipped back to their place of origin within a 90-day period.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Galveston claims the FDA’s refusal to release the drugs for use in lawful executions will cause ongoing harm to TDCJ, and it asks the judge to release them to the state.

The state claimed at an October 2015 hearing on the status of its drug shipment that prison officials qualified for a special law enforcement exemption to the labeling protocol. In April 2016, however, FDA officials made a tentative finding that the imported drugs were not admissible.

Texas has used thiopental sodium in more than 400 executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Shortages of execution drugs have worsened, however, as opposition has grown to the death penalty.






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