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One of the pharmaceutical manufacturers that produces a drug used in Oklahoma’s botched execution last year has asked the state to return all of the doses of the drug.
Illinois-based Akorn is one of several manufacturers that makes the sedative midazolam, which is part of a three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections in Oklahoma and other states.
The company sent a letter to state Attorney General Scott Pruitt on March 4 demanding that any of the company’s midazolam be returned for a full refund. The company said its drugs are not approved for executions.
“Additionally, such use is contrary to Akorn’s commitment to promote health and wellness of human patients,” the letter said. “Akorn strongly objects to the use of its products in capital punishment.”
The letter from Akorn's general counsel, Joseph Bonaccorsi, was also sent to other states using midazolam or drug for executions.
"We at Akorn are aware that two prescription drug products -- midazolam injection, USP CIV and hydromorphone hydrochloride injection ... may have been used by correctional facilities in the United States to administer lethal injections in capital punishment cases," the letter states. It adds that Akorn and several other companies manufacture the two drugs.
"The use of midazolam and/or hydromorphone for lethal injection is clearly comtradictory to the FDA-approved indications for both products," the letter says.
The letter states the company will no longer accept orders from departments of corrections.
Oklahoma Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick faced intense questioning from U.S. Supreme Court justices for use of midazolam in Oklahoma’s death chamber. Controversy over use of the drug arose after the state’s botched execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett a year ago.
Although the letter from Akorn to Pruitt was written March 4, news of the company's demand to Oklahoma surfaced Wednesday. Pruitt was in Washington, D.C., that day to attend the oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
It is unclear what the impact would be of Akorn's decision not to sell the drug for use in executions. Oklahoma and other states have turned to midazolam and other drugs for executions as other, more reliable drugs became unavailable.
Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Pruitt, said the letter is the latest sign of the pressure drug manufacturers face from death penalty critics.
“Drug manufacturers are being pressured by anti-death penalty activists making it increasingly difficult for states like Oklahoma to secure the drugs necessary to carry out the lethal injection process,” Cooper said. “The attorney general’s office will continue to defend the state’s ability to carry out the lethal injection process for the most heinous of crimes in accordance with the law.”
Akorn declined to comment, and representatives from the state Department of Corrections said state law prohibits them from saying whether any midazolam was returned.
The letter from Akorn: