The expected arrival date of 2 drugs to be used in executions has come and gone - a month ago.
But Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes said Monday he is still confident the state will get the sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide that are 2 of 3 drugs in Nebraska's lethal injection protocol. It is taking time to make sure the order is done right, he said.
Frakes ordered the drugs - sodium thiopental makes an inmate unconscious and pancuronium bromide causes paralysis - in May from Harris Pharma, a company in India that has sold sodium thiopental to Nebraska in the past.
The state already has the 3rd drug, potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
In May, the department ordered 1,000 1-gram vials of sodium thiopental at a cost of $25 per vial and 1,000 ampules of 2 mg/2 ml of pancuronium bromide at $26 per ampule. Total cost was $54,000.
The drugs are paid for and the supplier has the money, Frakes said Monday.
"We're still working with the supplier," he said. "There are a number of different issues that needed to be addressed through various different agencies both in India and ... here in America."
That includes the right information and code numbers for the order, and making sure the correct importation forms are filled out.
The drug would be exported by Harris Pharma, coming from Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The Corrections Department is the importer.
A 2013 federal circuit court ruling determined lethal injection drugs are subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversight and importation rules and that states must obtain such drugs legally through licensed, inspected dealers.
Sodium thiopental is not an approved drug in the United States, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
"With very limited exceptions (such as for research use), which do not apply here, it is unlawful to import this drug and FDA would refuse its admission into the United States," FDA spokesman Jeff Ventura has said.
Federal Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Barbara Carreno has said the DEA is in sync with the FDA on importing barbiturate anesthetics such as sodium thiopental from foreign companies.
"We allow their importation if they come from an FDA-approved source. Conversely, if the source is not FDA-approved, we will not allow their importation," she said.
Rather than move quickly and end up with a problem, Frakes said, he has chosen to take the time to ensure all the questions have been answered and he has correctly filled out all the required forms and addressed all concerns.
When he is confident the department has met all those needs, he'll ask that the drugs be shipped, he said.
"I remain confident that I will receive the products," Frakes said.
The Nebraska Legislature repealed the death penalty in May with an effective date at the end of August.
Meanwhile, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty is seeking signatures for an initiative petition to allow Nebraska voters to decide at the ballot box whether the state should retain the death penalty.
If the group gathers about 115,000 signatures from registered voters by Aug. 27, the law repealing the death penalty won't take effect. If its group gathers about half that, the law would take effect, but in either case, the issue would go to voters in November 2016.
10 people sentenced to death for first-degree murder remain on Nebraska's death row.
Source: Journal Star, July 21, 2015
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