Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thiopental Sodium - Reflux

Last week, I wrote about the US Supreme Court's order that essentially allowed Arizona to use thiopental sodium produced in a non-FDA approved facility located abroad.  Other states such as California, are also reported to be relying on imported thiopental sodium.  According to The Guardian:
The British producer, Archimedes Pharma, denies knowingly selling the drug for use in lethal injections.  As far as the company is concerned, it lawfully injected the drug into the stream of commerce in the UK and it has no control over what happens next.
"The company supplies the product in the UK, in accordance with regulations, through the recognised pharmaceutical supply chain, primarily to wholesalers and hospital pharmacies," it said.
Archimedes said that once the drug entered the complex chain of medical supplies it would not have known where it was eventually sold. "Consistent with applicable regulations, the company does not have information on specific end purchasers or users of its products. The company neither exports the product to the US for any purpose, nor is it aware of any exports of the product," it said.
A London-based human rights group - Repreive - has filed suit in England to bar the export of thiopental sodium for use in executions in the United States.  I wonder if the UK tribunal will consider whether an export ban violates Article XI(1) of the GATT:
No prohibitions or restrictions other than duties, taxes or other charges, . . . shall be instituted or maintained by any contracting party . . . on the exportation or sale for export of any product destined for the territory of any other contracting party. 
or meets one of the general exceptions found in Article XX.  I seriously doubt it. 

Putting aside the potential WTO issues, what I really want to know is how was the thiopental sodium imported into the United States.  Perscription drugs (and controlled substances) such as thiopental sodium can only be imported into the United States if they are produced at FDA-approved facilities.  There are no foreign FDA-approved facilities for thiopental sodium.  Therefore, it's unclear how someone could have formally declared the drugs and imported them into the United States.  Did someone "informally" import the thiopental sodium in their carry-on luggage and make it available for sale to states?  I sure hope not. 
California is also planning to use a batch of sodium thiopental apparently imported from the UK in an execution that was put on hold last month, it has emerged.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! After a casual reading of Article XX at the link, couldn't the UK justify an export ban under points (a), protect public morals or (b) protect human life or health? The death penalty is, I believe, generally considered immoral in the UK, at least for most offenses, and if it's going to be used to kill someone, restricting export would protect human life.