Firms object to drug use in Arkansas executions

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"It is not too late for Arkansas to halt these executions".

Both corporations have policies to prevent supplies of their drugs ending up in the service of executions, for instance barring distributors from selling to prisons or delivering drugs to other middlemen.

Two pharmaceutical companies are asking a federal judge to prevent Arkansas from using its drugs in the planned execution of seven death row inmates later this month.

Hutchinson scheduled the executions to take place before the state's supply of the drug expires at the end of April.

London-based Hikma, West-Ward's parent company, said it made "repeated" representation to officials "to confirm if they are in possession of our product which they intend to use in lethal injections, and if so to return it to us".

Neither the office of Arkansas's governor, Asa Hutchinson, nor the state's department of corrections immediately replied to phone calls or an email.

The lawyers also noted that the European Union had strict regulations for products that can be used for capital punishment, meaning that Arkansas' actions could convince officials to reduce the supply of medicines for fear of indirectly abetting executions.

Company spokesman Matt Kuhn said: "We can only conclude Arkansas may have acquired this product from an unauthorised seller".

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'Pharmaceuticals obtained in this manner are at risk of adulteration or chemical change due to improper handling such as failure to maintain proper temperature levels during storage and transport'.

The AP previous year used redacted drug labels to identify Hospira, which was purchased by Pfizer, as the likely manufacturer of the third drug in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol.

Separately, Ohio has asked the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to re-consider a decision last week from a three-judge panel from that court blocking the state's lethal injection process, the attorney general's office said. Executives at the drug giant have said they oppose the use of their drugs in executions, but a spokesperson for the corporation did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

"Just four months after the U.S. recorded its lowest execution total for a quarter of a century, Arkansas is preparing to buck this positive trend in a shameful race to beat a drug expiration date".

Executions were previously on hold in Arkansas because of legal challenges over its use of lethal injections. If carried out, the executions would mark the most inmates put to death by a state in such a short period in modern history.

All the inmates scheduled to die this month have launched a series of motions in federal court in Little Rock to block the proceedings. Nobody now working at the Arkansas Department of Corrections has performed an execution using midazolam, the prisoners' attorneys claim.

A number of recent instances have been documented of prisoners who have been given midazolam writhing, gasping and struggling in agony for prolonged periods of time before dying.