A shipment of sodium thiopental was on its way to Nebraska from India late last month, but improper paperwork led FedEx to return the drugs.

India-based distributor trying hard to send death-penalty chemical to Nebraska but US FDA says noImage: By eurok - uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja via Wikimedia Commons, Flickr/WCADP
news Friday, September 18, 2015 - 13:40

The state of Nebraska in the US has 10 men on the death row, and in spite of the state repealing the death penalty in May 2015, there is considerable outcry from pro-death-penalty groups to bring back the state-sponsored executions, and put these 10 men to death since they were sentenced before the law was repealed. But there is one other reason it is not happening – the state of Nebraska is finding it very difficult to import sodium thiopental from India.

BuzzFeed reports that a shipment of sodium thiopental, which is used for executions in Nebraska but the import of which has been deemed illegal by the US Food and Drug Administration, was on its way to Nebraska from India late last month, but improper paperwork led FedEx to return the drugs to the sender before they left India.

According to media report, Nebraska had tried to source the drug from a distributor in India named Chris Harris in May 2015. Even though the FDA says it cannot allow the drug into US, the state of Nebraska has been insisting that in needs the drugs.

Recently, the distributor named Chris Harris tried to send 50 pounds of sodium thiopental through FedEx, but FedEx has refused to transport it due to ‘improper’ paper work, according to BuzzFeed. The shipment is said to have not even left Indian shores.

This is not the first time Nebraska is facing problems.

After the all the US companies producing the chemical shut down in 2010, and European Union imposed restrictions on its export, Nebraska, and possibly two other states Ohio and North Dakota, came knocking on the doors of an Indian supplier – Navneet Verma’s Kayem Chemicals.

Navneet Verma, at the time, knew that the drugs were being used for prisons as he had to authorize shipments but he did not know it was being used for the death penalty.

Verma had dispatched two cases of 500 vials each to Nebraska and South Dakota. He was going to increase the supply, until he was contacted by a British organisation that advocates the abolition of the death penalty. In 2011, Navneet Verma stopped shipping sodium thiopental to the US when he learned that the conventional anaesthetic was being used to kill prisoners.

"We discontinued all products on anesthesia and migrated to other product ranges mostly a combination of Pharmaceutical & Cosmetics," he told The News Minute over mail.

But the state of Nebraska, it seems, has continues to have the intention of importing the chemical.

"As per Pharmaceutical Law for arranging registration of Products in foreign countries for its marketing, one requires an agent who shall be the resident of the country (in this case Chris Harris and the United States) to take up issues of registration in Foreign Countries," says Navneet, while adding that Harris offered exactly those services.

However, he also claims that Chris Harris is not the only pharmacy broker and the Indian market is riddled with such brokers who are engaged with government offices to further these foreign interests. 

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.