US state revives rejected plan to mix execution drugs in secret

By agency reporter
April 13, 2016

Virginia state governor Terry McAuliffe has resurrected a proposal to use secret batches of specially mixed medicines in executions by lethal injection, raising concerns over a lack of transparency.

The proposal would amend a bill to restore the electric chair as a default execution method, which was passed earlier this year by both houses of the state legislature. If accepted, Governor McAuliffe’s proposal would leave the state and its drug suppliers exempt from Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

An almost identical measure was rejected earlier this year by a bipartisan majority of legislators in Virginia’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives. To pass, the new proposal will need to gain majority support in a new legislative session, to be held on 20 April 2016.

Courts in Arkansas and Missouri have already struck down similar provisions. Just three weeks ago a Missouri court ruled that the state’s execution drug suppliers could not legally be considered “part of the execution team”, and ordered that the state should disclose records relating to their involvement.

The use of compounded medicines in executions is opposed by both the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists (IACP). In March 2015, members of the APhA said that “such activities are fundamentally contrary to the role of pharmacists as providers of healthcare”, while the body’s CEO, Thomas E. Menighan, commented that: “Pharmacists are health care providers and pharmacist participation in executions conflicts with the profession’s role.”

Virginia conducted an execution last year using drugs that were trafficked from a secret supplier in Texas, contrary to DEA regulations. Texas has since confirmed this was an exceptional agreement, rather than a regular procedure.

Maya Foa, Director at the human rights organisation Reprieve, said: It’s abundantly clear that no one in the healthcare industry wants anything to do with supplying drugs for executions – regardless of secrecy. Pharmacists, like manufacturers, make medicines to improve and save the lives of patients, not end the lives of prisoners in executions. The American Pharmacists Association and the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, the leading voices for pharmacists around the country, have both spoken out categorically against the misuse of pharmacist-made medicines in executions."

 She concluded: “Secrecy will only make the process less transparent, the government less accountable and executions more dangerous and costly.”

* The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) statement, and that of APhA CEO Thomas E. Menighan, can be read here.

*Read the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists statement here

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

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