Nebraska has hired Ben England, who also has been hired by other states, to help it import drugs for use in executions. In documents confirming his work for Nebraska, England also is listed as the U.S. agent for the drug salesman in India who has been the subject of ongoing BuzzFeed News reporting.
States attempting to illegally import execution drugs, an outside lawyer helping them do so, and an overseas drug supplier have coordinated their efforts more than previously known, documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show.
BuzzFeed News previously reported that three states — Arizona, Ohio, and Texas — hired outside lawyers to help them on drug importation issues. Several states have paid Ben England or his companies — Benjamin L. England & Associates, LLC and FDAImports.com, LLC — to represent the states in their attempts to import the drugs.
New public records provided by Nebraska to BuzzFeed News show that it, too, has hired England to not only import sodium thiopental but register an overseas supplier with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The documents, however, also show much more about the work going on behind the scenes to bring execution drugs into the country that the FDA says cannot legally be imported.
The records, some of which are marked confidential and “attorney-client privileged,” show Nebraska’s Department of Corrections paid attorney Ben England $399 to register sodium thiopental with the FDA that a man named Chris Harris and his company, Harris Pharma, claims to be able to manufacture. But prior reports from BuzzFeed News call into question information listed on the registration.
The registration, sent to Nebraska officials in early September, lists an address in Kolkata, India, as the location where Harris Pharma manufactures its drugs. A BuzzFeed News investigation, published in October, revealed that the location is a small rented office space, and an employee at the building confirmed that no drugs were being manufactured there.
Although Harris sold the drugs and claims to be a manufacturer, BuzzFeed News previously reported that he did not make the drugs intended for Texas and Arizona. Instead, a company in India called Health Biotech Limited is listed as the manufacturer of the drugs on FDA paperwork regarding the shipments. An employee of Health Biotech told BuzzFeed News that the company made the drug for Harris, who then marketed it on his own. “We don’t know what he does with the product,” the employee said.
Ohio, which responded in October to an FDA letter about the legality of importing sodium thiopental, has paid England more than $30,000 over the past two years. Texas paid one of England’s firms more than $15,000 in April, although the payment was rescinded days later.
Source: Buzzfeed, Chris McDaniel, November 2, 2015