Lincoln, Apr 13 (AP) A German pharmaceutical manufacturer whose drugs ended up in Nebraska’s lethal injection supply never intended for state officials to obtain them and tried unsuccessfully to get the corrections department to return them, a company spokesman said today.
Nebraska’s corrections department was only able to buy potassium chloride in 2015 because one of its US distributors made a mistake, said Fresenius Kabi spokesman Matt Kuhn.
His comments came after The Associated Press asked whether company officials were aware that the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services had bought their product for use as a lethal injection drug.
The AP identified the manufacturer through an open records request, but a bill slated for debate in the Legislature would allow the state to hide the identities of its suppliers.
“This was a case in 2015 where human error by the distributor resulted in the Department of Corrections receiving our product,” said Kuhn, who is based in Illinois.
“We expressed our concerns and the distributor requested the (corrections department) return the product, which did not occur.”
Kuhn said the company discovered the sale through an internal audit. While the company takes no formal position on capital punishment, it requires distributors to sign an agreement promising not sell certain drugs to state corrections departments.
“Our products are developed and approved solely for patient care, and we expressly restrict the sale of our products for use in lethal injection,” he said.
A Department of Correctional Services spokeswoman did not respond to a phone call or follow-up questions sent by email after the records request.
Potassium chloride was the only lethal injection drug Nebraska prison officials possessed before Republican Gov.
Pete Ricketts approved a new protocol in January. The new rules give state corrections director Scott Frakes broad authority to decide which drugs to purchase, so he is no longer bound to use potassium chloride.
Death penalty opponents said the company’s statement shows the importance of requiring the state to disclose its suppliers. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, a leading critic of capital punishment, called on lawmakers to reject the push for secrecy and launch an investigation.
“These shocking allegations are just the latest illustration of how Nebraska’s death penalty is broken beyond repair,” said Danielle Conrad, the group’s executive director.
The company’s statement “underscores the need to honor Nebraska’s strong tradition of open government and the need to ensure transparency in the death penalty process.” Death penalty supporters said companies shouldn’t dictate how their products are used once they’re sold and blamed anti-death penalty activists for pressuring companies to stop selling drugs with legitimate medical purposes.
Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said shield laws make it easier for corrections departments to mislead distributors about how they will use the drugs and helps distributors violate their contractual agreements not to sell drugs to prisons.
“It’s difficult for companies to track, because there are legitimate sales to departments of corrections for medicinal purposes,” said Dunham, whose group takes no stance on the death penalty but is critical of how it’s administered.
The Swiss company said the sodium thiopental Nebraska purchased through an India-based middleman was a sample intended to be used as an anesthetic in Zambia. Corrections officials under a previous administration insisted they had purchased the drug in a legitimate matter. (AP) KJ
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.