Death Penalty

FDA Warns Ohio Not to Illegally Import Execution Drugs


The United States Public Health Service’s Division of Import Operation has alerted Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction that if Ohio seeks an offshore source for the execution drug sodium thiopental, it will be in violation a U.S. District Court ruling that prohibits its importation.

The reason cited is the absence of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the use of sodium thiopental. The state previously had a Drug Enforcement Administration license to import the drug, but it also needs FDA’s consent before it can do so.

Ohio legislators passed an “execution secrecy law” in late 2014; they hoped it would convince small drug makers (so-called “compounding pharmacies”) to sell sodium thiopental to the state. But the American Pharmacists Association, as well as many Ohio compounding pharmacists, have declined to make and sell execution drugs.

The law also was criticized for hiding important public business. Ohio Public Defender Tim Young called the plan as “an obviously illegal attempt to obtain drugs in a way that is banned for every other American.”

Ohio hasn’t conducted an execution since early 2014 when the process took almost a half hour and many labeled it as “botched.” The next execution in our state is scheduled for January 2016.