July 13, 2020 / 8:06 PM / 21 days ago

Lab that tested U.S. execution drug will no longer accept lethal injection samples

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A laboratory that was revealed last week to have been testing the purity of a lethal-injection drug for the U.S. Department of Justice has said it will no longer test the drug if it is intended for executions.

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of testing firm DYNALABS are seen in St Louis, Missouri, U.S., July 9, 2020. Picture taken July 9, 2020. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant

DYNALABS, in St. Louis, Missouri, announced the new policy after Reuters published an investigation on Friday that named some of the companies involved in a secret supply chain to make and test a drug ahead of the first federal executions in 17 years.

Two of the testing laboratories identified, including DYNALABS, told Reuters they did not know the samples of the drug, pentobarbital, belonged to the Justice Department, nor that it was intended for executions.

DYNALABS says it will ask any pharmacy that sends it pentobarbital, a barbiturate doctors use to treat seizures and other conditions, to sign an attestation.

“It will be our policy going forward to require a statement from our client indicating their preparation will not be used for execution,” Michael Pruett and Russell Odegard, DYNALABS’ co-founders, said in a statement published on Friday on their website. “Clients that decline to make that declaration will not be allowed to submit their pentobarbital preparations to DYNALABS for testing.”

The first federal executions since 2003 were due to take place this week. But a federal judge ordered their delay while the condemned men continue their legal challenge over the lethal-injection protocol.

The Justice Department has cited test results showing that its pentobarbital was potent and uncontaminated as it argued in court that it was taking care not to breach a constitutional ban on “cruel and unusual punishments.”

The department has said it requires two independent testing labs to check pentobarbital samples prior to an execution.

The department has hired a so-called compounding pharmacy, which mixes tailored drugs to order, to make the pentobarbital. The identity of the pharmacy and other contractors has been kept secret by the department, which has argued that companies are unwilling to help with executions unless their identities are hidden.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment on DYNALABS’ new policy.

Two other laboratories involved, ARL Bio Pharma Inc in Oklahoma City and Eagle Analytical Services Inc in Houston, have also confirmed they had produced the test results cited by the Justice Department in court filings, and that the work had been commissioned by a compounding pharmacy.

ARL has said it was not aware at the time the drug was for use in lethal injections while Eagle has declined to comment.

On Monday, ARL spokesman Brent Gooden and Eagle spokeswoman Amy Deatsman declined to say whether or not their laboratories would continue testing drugs intended for executions.

Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Dan Grebler and Edwina Gibbs

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