Ohio executions remain uncertain as FDA warns the state not to import drug

Ohio's ability to carry out lethal injections remains up in the air as the state's next scheduled execution nears, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Ronald Phillips is scheduled to be executed in January 2016 after months of delays related to problems with accessing and using lethal injections drugs. The FDA recently sent a letter to Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction indicating that they had learned that Ohio planned to obtain sodium thiopental for use in executions, and warning the organization that obtaining the drug from "an overseas source" would be illegal. The letter stated that since sodium thiopental is not available in the U.S., the FDA assumes that the DRC would be importing it, and that this would be illegal because "there is no FDA approved application for sodium thiopental."

The state's executions have been on hold since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire struggled for nearly 20 minutes during his execution with a new drug cocktail containing midazolam and hydromorphone, and his family brought a federal suit against drug manufacturers and state officials. Ohio had previously used pentobarbital, but manufacturers had generally stopped selling the drug for use in executions, leading the state to try the midazolam and hydromorphone combination. In January of this year the state announced that it would no longer use these drugs. The Ohio General Assembly also passed HB 663 last year, granting anonymity to execution drug manufacturers. Despite this, the state still has not secured the drugs to perform the lethal injections.

According to the Dispatch, in addition to Phillips, Ohio also has several other executions set for 2016, including Raymond Tibbetts on March 12, and has nearly 20 scheduled through May 2019.