Drug company lawsuit could stall Nevada execution

12 July, 2018, 05:40 | Author: Myra Gill
  • Scott Dozier wants to die by untested method, even if it’s painful

Experts say it would be the first time the opioid fentanyl was used in a US execution.

The drugs were ordered from one of the US's largest pharmaceutical distribution companies, Cardinal Health, which is among wholesalers facing a barrage of lawsuits accusing them of profiteering from the opioid epidemic by delivering vast quantities of prescription painkillers to small pharmacies and ignoring evidence they were being used by people addicted to the drugs.

According to the pharmaceutical company, the state obtained their drug illegally, and Alvogen wants that drug returned to them.

Dozier had been scheduled for execution in November, but a district court judge had ruled that cisatracurium couldn't be used in the execution over concerns about the muscle relaxant, which could hide signs of pain.

"While Alvogen takes no position on the death penalty itself, Alvogen's products were developed to save and improve patients' lives and their use in executions is fundamentally contrary to this goal", the company said in its complaint.

It was not immediately clear if the filing would stop the execution scheduled at Ely State Prison, 250 miles north of Las Vegas.

A Nevada inmate slated to die by a three-drug lethal injection combination never before used in the USA has said repeatedly he wants his sentence carried out and he doesn't care if it's painful.

District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez held a brief hearing Tuesday afternoon.

However, the legal challenge filed by Alvogen is only the second of its kind in the U.S., said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Centre in Washington.

The midazolam would be used to sedate Dozier before he is killed using fentanyl, a drug at the forefront of the U.S. opioid epidemic that was also allegedly obtained illicitly.

Last year, the state refused to return its stock of fentanyl and diazepam to drug company Pfizer.

The sedative is meant to render the inmate unconscious before he is administered the synthetic opioid fentanyl and then paralytic agent cisatracurium.


"Life in prison isn't a life", the 47-year-old told the Review-Journal.

"This whole action is just PR damage control", Smith said of Alvogen. This is the first time a drug company has successfully sued to halt an execution, according to the Associated Press. The pharmaceutical company also raised fears that the drug could lead to a botched execution, citing cases that apparently went awry elsewhere around the country.

The health care supply company McKesson filed a similar lawsuit in Arkansas a year ago, but that challenge was rejected.

Nevada obtained the midazolam after its supply of another sedative, diazepam, commonly known as Valium, expired. Under Nevada's new execution protocol, the inmate is next given fentanyl and then cisatracurium, one to slow his breathing, the other to stop it.

Dozier, a twice-convicted killer who attempted suicide in the past, has said he prefers death to a life in prison.

There's a limit to how much artwork and exercise a person can do in prison, Dozier said in court hearings and letters to Clark County District Judge Jennifer Togliatti, who postponed his execution past year.

Dozier was convicted in 2007 of the murder of Jeremiah Miller, who was robbed and shot in 2002 after traveling to Las Vegas, where Dozier had promised to help him get drugs to make methamphetamine. Miller's torso was later found in a suitcase in a trash bin, local media reported.

In 2005, Dozier was sentenced to 22 years in prison for shooting to death another drug-trade associate, 26-year-old Jasen Greene, whose body was found in 2002 in a shallow grave outside Phoenix. A witness testified Dozier used a sledgehammer to break the victim's limbs so the corpse would fit in a plastic storage container.

He did, however, let federal public defenders review and challenge the execution protocol drawn up past year by state medical and prison officials.

They argued that the untried three-drug combination would be less humane than putting down a pet.

Midazolam has been used with inconsistent results in states including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida and Ohio. In 2014, an inmate in OH and another one in Arizona were left gasping and snorting before they died in what death penalty foes called botched executions.

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