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Drugmakers object to Arkansas execution secrecy measure

March 29, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Two pharmaceutical companies objected to legislative efforts to expand the secrecy surrounding the source of Arkansas’ lethal injection drugs, saying the proposal would hamper their ability to ensure their products aren’t being used for executions.

Officials with Hikma Pharmaceuticals and Fresenius Kabi USA sent letters this month to lawmakers and the governor raising concerns about a bill that would prohibit the state from releasing information that could directly or indirectly identify the makers or suppliers of its lethal injection drugs. Arkansas doesn’t have any executions scheduled, and its supply of lethal injection drugs has expired. Prison officials have said they won’t search for replacements until the state’s execution secrecy law is expanded to include the drugs’ manufacturers.

Both companies oppose the use of their drugs in executions, and have put controls in place to ensure they’re not used for capital punishment.

“We are deeply concerned with efforts by any state to obscure or hide the source of products for lethal injection,” Brooke Clarke, Hikma’s vice president for global corporate affairs, said in a letter to House leaders. “It is imperative that we are not impeded from protecting patient health and upholding the protocols we have put in place to monitor the integrity of our products and supply chain.”

Fresenius Kabi USA said it was worried about unintended consequences of such a measure, such as drug shortages due to European Union regulations aimed at preventing the export of drugs that would be used in executions.

“My concern is that the proposed secrecy laws in Arkansas might prevent us from being able to audit these distribution controls and assure their effectiveness,” John Ducker, the company’s president and CEO, said in a letter sent to Hutchinson, as well as members of the House Judiciary Committee. “If one of our drugs were to be used in lethal injection in Arkansas, this would amount to a breach of our contracts, and it could have far-reaching consequences for public health, given the European Union’s view on capital punishment.”

The Republican sponsor of the measure said he’s not worried about any unintended consequences.

“From my perspective, the intended consequence is to see though some executions, and this bill will ensure that,” Sen. Bart Hester said.

Both companies in 2017 had sought unsuccessfully to prevent Arkansas from using their drugs under an execution plan that initially called for putting eight inmates to death over an 11-day period. Arkansas ultimately executed four inmates over eight days, after half the executions were halted by the courts.

The expanded secrecy proposal is in response to rulings from the state Supreme Court that the current secrecy law doesn’t apply to manufacturers of Arkansas’ execution drugs. Hutchinson, a Republican who has backed the expanded secrecy efforts, defended the proposal Friday.

“The governor has been very clear as to why this legislation is needed and that this is a correction to the original intent of the law,” Spokesman J.R. Davis said. “Global pharmaceutical companies do not dictate policy here in Arkansas.”

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