Fentanyl maker joins lawsuit to block Nev. execution plan

The company joined a bid to stop the use of a sedative for the twice-postponed execution of Scott Raymond Dozier


By Ken Ritter
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — A maker of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl joined a bid Monday to block the use of its product in what would be the first execution in Nevada in more than 12 years using a three-drug combination never before tried in any state.

Hikma Pharmaceuticals USA overcame sharp objections from the state to win a judge's OK to intervene in New Jersey-based Alvogen's lawsuit seeking to stop the use of an Alvogen sedative for the twice-postponed execution of twice-convicted killer Scott Raymond Dozier.

This Nov. 10, 2016, file photo released by the Nevada Department of Corrections shows the newly completed execution chamber at Ely State Prison in Ely, Nev. (Nevada Department of Corrections via AP, File)
This Nov. 10, 2016, file photo released by the Nevada Department of Corrections shows the newly completed execution chamber at Ely State Prison in Ely, Nev. (Nevada Department of Corrections via AP, File)

"It's ironic that the maker of fentanyl, which is at the center of the nation's opioid crisis and is responsible for illegal overdoses every day is going to ... claim reputational injury from being associated with a lawful execution," Deputy Nevada state Solicitor General Jordan T. Smith protested.

Hikma attorney Kristen Martini cited what she called "the identical legal issues, the duplicate claims and substantially similar factual background alleged by Alvogen and Hikma" in gaining entry into the case.

The companies share "common questions of law and fact," Martini argued, in contentions that they publicly declared they didn't want their products used in executions and that Nevada improperly obtained their drugs for the planned lethal injection.

Alvogen attorney Todd Bice did not object to Hikma joining the case.

The lawsuit is on a speedy track toward a possible mid-November execution date, after the Nevada Supreme Court last week agreed to quickly consider the state's appeal of Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez's final-hours decision to delay the July 11 execution so she could consider Alvogen's case.

Gonzalez is scheduled to begin hearing arguments in September.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt's office said in Supreme Court filings that a high court ruling is needed by Oct. 19, or useful prison stocks of a needed drug, the muscle paralyzing agent cisatracurium, will expire.

The maker of that drug, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, is still deciding whether to join the Alvogen-Hikma case, said Colby Williams, an attorney representing the Novartis subsidiary.

Nevada wants to use the Alvogen sedative midazolam to render Dozier unconscious, then administer a lethal dose of fentanyl to slow his breathing and follow with cisatracurium to ensure that breathing stops.

The expiration of drugs would set state prison officials back to the beginning of a planning process that has made Nevada a model of the trouble that many of the 31 U.S. states with the death penalty have had in recent years obtaining drugs for lethal injections.

Nevada last conducted a lethal injection in April 2006.

Dozier, 47, has said repeatedly that he wants to die and doesn't care if he suffers. He is not appealing his convictions for separate killings of drug trade associates in Phoenix and Las Vegas in 2002. He has been on death row since 2007.

Associated Press
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