Texas Can't Have Its Mystery Execution Drugs, FDA Says

Texas Can't Have Its Mystery Execution Drugs, FDA Says
Texas was so impatient with the U.S. Food and Drug Adminsitration for withholding its execution drugs for nearly two years that it filed a lawsuit, demanding to know ASAP whether it could have its drugs back. Yesterday, the FDA got back to the state with its decision: No.

The FDA has been hanging onto the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's shipment of 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental from an overseas maker since July 2015, when it seized the drugs from Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The feds believed the anesthetic drugs, used for lethal injection, weren't up to snuff on labeling laws and had not been properly approved by the FDA, then took them into custody to further examine them. After the FDA was apparently taking its sweet time, Texas, the all-time leader in executions, sued the agency in January 2017 for taking too long to release a decision.

“There are only two reasons why the FDA would take 17 months to make a final decision on Texas’s importation of thiopental sodium: gross incompetence or willful obstruction,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement at the time. “The FDA has an obligation to fulfill its responsibilities faithfully and in a timely manner. My office will not allow the FDA to sit on its hands and thereby impair Texas’ responsibility to carry out its law enforcement duties.”

TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark had told the Houston Press then that the FDA's withholding of the execution drugs had not impaired Texas's ability to execute prisoners. Plenty of other drugs are on hand.

On Thursday, the FDA said in an emailed statement that a 2012 federal court ruling involving the importation of sodium thiopental from overseas gave the FDA the authority to seize the drugs and bar them from entering the United States if the drugs appeared to be an "unapproved new drug or a misbranded drug."

Because TDCJ has kept its mysterious overseas execution drug providers secret, for all we know, the drugs could have been ordered on Amazon.

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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn