The federal lawsuit challenges the FDA’s formal ruling, issued Friday, that prohibits the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from importing the drug. Texas purchased the substance from a man in India, but the shipment was seized in July 2015 at Houston Intercontinental Airport, according to BuzzFeed. The FDA ordered that the drugs either be destroyed or shipped back to their place of origin within 90 days, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Texas claims in the lawsuit that FDA’s action is illegal because law enforcement agencies are exempt from the FDA’s import ban on the drug. The state asks the court to block the FDA from similar orders in the future.
“Texas appears to be trying to carve out an exception for this one purpose,” using the drugs for execution, said Megan McCracken, an expert on lethal injection drugs and a professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law.
The FDA declined to comment, BuzzFeed reported.
Texas, which pioneered lethal injection in 1982, had used sodium thiopental in its execution cocktail for three decades. The drug hasn’t been made in the United States for several years, according to Reuters, and European drugmakers stopped exporting sodium thiopental to the U.S. in 2011, the Dallas Morning News reported.
As supplies dried up, death-penalty states like Texas were forced to find other lethal substances for executions, including the sedative pentobarbital.
Texas has enough pentobarbital for the five executions currently scheduled. But the state’s death row houses 240 inmates, and state officials want to return to using sodium thiopental.
According to BuzzFeed, federal authorities warned Texas and the Indian seller of the sodium thiopental before their 2012 deal that importing the drug would be illegal.