On July 10th, 2018, the American pharmaceuticals company Alvogen sued the state of Nevada to prevent the use of its medicines in an upcoming execution.
The lawsuit sought the return of Alvogen’s Midazolam, which Nevada had acquired “illicitly and through subterfuge.”
The following day, a Nevada court issued an order prohibiting Nevada officials from using Alvogen’s drug in lethal injection, effectively blocking the scheduled execution of Scott Dozier. The judge noted that this ruling was necessary to protect Alvogen from the “irreparable harm to its reputation as a company that produces life-enhancing and life-saving drugs if [Nevada officials] are allowed to misuse its product midazolam.”
Lawyers for the company alleged that state officials acquired its medicines unlawfully, without disclosing to its supplier that the medicines were intended for a non-therapeutic use. Nevada officials were aware of Alvogen’s position on this issue because the company had submitted letters to state officials in every executing state informing them of Alvogen’s opposition to the use of its products in capital punishment.
The pharmaceutical company Sandoz, which produces the paralytic cisatracurium besylate in Nevada’s protocol, also intervened in the suit brought by Alvogen, formally objecting to its medicines being used in this specific execution.
Coverage in the New York Times notes, “Nevada had planned to use three drugs in the execution of Scott Dozier, who has been on death row since 2007: one as a sedative, one to paralyze him, and the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl to help kill him. The execution would have been the first to use fentanyl, which kills thousands of Americans every year and is at the forefront of the nation’s overdose crisis.
The potential use of commonly abused narcotics like fentanyl in executions has alarmed human-rights organizations. They fear that prison officials in death-penalty states, facing objections from pharmaceutical companies, will turn to the black market to obtain those narcotics, bolstering trafficking networks at the same time authorities are desperately trying to curb them.”