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Death Penalty

DC Circuit blocks import of lethal injection drug

Posted Jul 24, 2013 8:51 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal appeals court has upheld a court order that blocks importation of the lethal injection drug sodium thiopental, a sedative used to anesthetize inmates before they receive drugs that cause death.

The U.S. Court of Appeals said the Food and Drug Administration should not have allowed states to import the drug without first examining it, according to The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. The decision upheld a trial judge’s order in a suit by a group of death row inmates in California, Arizona and Tennessee. How Appealing links to the opinion (PDF) and coverage by Bloomberg News and the Associated Press.

The appeals court said a judge doesn’t have power to require the FDA to order states to return the drug, however, because the states weren’t parties to the suit.

The FDA had argued it needed discretion to import medically necessary drugs when they are in short supply here and have overseas approval. The appeals court said the FDA could have taken other steps, such as asking companies to increase production.

Sidley Austin partner Coleen Klasmeier was a lead lawyer for the death-row inmates. She told The BLT that the ruling creates a "more robust role" for courts in challenges to agency decisions.

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