The American pharmaceutical company Alvogen is suing the state of Nevada to prevent the use of its medicines in the execution of Scott Dozier, which is scheduled for tomorrow.
Lawyers for the company allege that Nevada officials acquired Alvogen medicines “illicitly and through subterfuge,” in the process violating state laws intended to tackle the opioid epidemic and prevent the misuse of dangerous drugs.
Alvogen’s motion, filed in Nevada court, seeks an emergency injunction and the immediate return of its medicines. The company has sued the Nevada Department of Corrections, its director James Dzurenda, its Chief Medical Officer Ihsan Azzam, as well as the physicians due to attend Dozier’s scheduled execution.
Alvogen alleges that state officials acquired its medicines unlawfully, without disclosing to its supplier that the medicines were intended for a non-therapeutic use, or that it knew Alvogen to be opposed to this misuse. The company also claims the medicines were purchased using the medical license of the DOC’s Director, which was employed “surreptitiously, evasively, illicitly, and by subterfuge.”
Nevada has not carried out an execution since 2006. Its three drug lethal injection protocol –
the sedative Midazolam, the opioid Fentanyl, and the paralytic Cisatracurium Besylate – is untested in any state. Indeed, it was only announced last week, on July 3.
Fentanyl has been directly linked to thousands of overdose deaths. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has called the opioid addiction crisis “a sweeping epidemic which is hurting families across Nevada and our nation.” Every state that has included Midazolam in its lethal injection protocol has seen gruesome botched executions as a result.
Alvogen’s lawsuit is only the latest healthcare industry opposition to the misuse of medicines in executions. Over fifty companies have taken action to prevent their drugs being diverted to death rows for use in capital punishment.
In April 2017, America’s largest drug wholesaler McKesson sued the Arkansas Department of Correction after the state purchased McKesson products through “false pretense, trickery, and bad faith.”
The state planned to use the unlawfully obtained medicines in eight executions scheduled over the course of ten days. The suit temporarily blocked the executions from moving forwards.
Last month, Alvogen issued a public statement noting that “Alvogen endorses the use of its products in accordance with FDA-approved indications. To this end, Alvogen has undertaken controls to avoid diversion of [its products] for use in execution protocols. In furtherance of this effort, Alvogen does not accept direct orders from prison systems or departments of correction. In addition, Alvogen is working to ensure that its distributors and wholesalers do not resell, either directly or indirectly, [Alvogen products] to prison systems or departments of correction.”
Maya Foa, who runs the Lethal Injection Information Center at Reprieve, said:
“Alvogen’s lawsuit exposes how Nevada used ‘subterfuge’ to ‘illegally obtain’ the company’s drugs in breach of laws designed to prevent the diversion of dangerous controlled substances. This reckless disregard for drug safety laws endangers patients as well as prisoners. In the interests of public safety Governor Sandoval should heed the healthcare industry’s warnings and prevent this execution going ahead with illegally purchased drugs.”