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Chambers challenges Pfizer to stop any use of its drugs in execution

July 29, 2018

The letter begins: TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.

With that, Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers challenged a major drug company to use the courts to block use of any of its drugs that may be used in the scheduled execution of condemned Nebraska prisoner Carey Dean Moore.

Chambers sent the letter Friday to a Pfizer pharmaceutical company executive in an effort to persuade him to go beyond Pfizer’s request to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services for return of any lethal injection drugs manufactured by the company.

Pfizer had not yet received the letter Saturday and the company could not comment until it had a chance to read and discuss its contents, a representative said.

Another drug company, Alvogen, successfully filed a legal objection in Nevada this month to stop one of its drugs from being used in an execution. A judge blocked the use of its sedative midazolam from being used in the scheduled execution of Scott Raymond Dozier.

“Does Pfizer’s desire to protect its integrity, good name and public image rise to the level of Alvogen’s?” Chambers asked Robert Jones, Pfizer vice president of government affairs.

Moore is scheduled to die by lethal injection Aug. 14 and has been informed that four drugs, never before used in an execution in this combination, are to be administered to put him to death. They are fentanyl, diazepam, cisatracurium besylate and potassium chloride.

Jones sent a letter to Nebraska Corrections Director Scott Frakes in October asking for the return of any Pfizer products to be used for capital punishment.

The letter from Jones informed the department that diazepam and fentanyl had been added to the company’s list of 11 restricted products from lethal injection for capital punishment. He requested the return of any restricted-use Pfizer or Hospira products in the department’s possession.

“Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve,” Jones said in the letter. “Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.”

Nebraska, like some other states, has shrouded the source of its lethal injection drugs in secrecy, Chambers told Jones in the letter. ACLU of Nebraska, the Lincoln Journal Star and the Omaha World Herald have sued the state to compel it to reveal the sources of the drugs.

A Lancaster County District judge has ordered the state to release records of communications with its lethal injection drug suppliers, as well as several other documents related to Nebraska’s efforts to carry out the death penalty.

The court found certain other documents were exempt from disclosure under a state law protecting the identities of members of the state’s execution team, including purchase orders and chemical analysis reports.

The department appealed the decision and no records were released, so the source of the four drugs is still unknown.

In his letter, Chambers told Jones it was a puzzling that Pfizer had not initiated any legal action in Nebraska to force the department to return its drugs.

“The courts are open for business, as demonstrated by Alvogen; and I am confident that the judicial system will give serious, expeditious consideration to the goal of maintaining intact and unblemished and uncompromised by others Pfizer’s declared mission and purpose — ‘to enhance and save the lives of patients’ — if you but initiate appropriate legal proceedings,” Chambers wrote.

He questioned Pfizer’s will to employ its “standing and legal wherewithal” to protect its interests in this situation.

Chambers said it might be understandable if a cynic were to suggest that Pfizer is being disingenuous and calculatingly trying to have it both ways, to stave off accusations of being complicit in executions, but by taking no legal action managing to continue active participation in the capital punishment market.

“What is Pfizer’s good name worth?” he asked.

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