Ohio announces rules for testing lethal injection drugs when specialty batches mixed



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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio will test lethal injection drugs ahead of executions if it obtains specialty batches of the drugs, the state prisons agency announced Monday in its latest update of capital punishment rules.

The revised policy applies to so-called compounded drugs, which are specially mixed versions of drugs not subject to strict federal oversight.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will only use compounded drugs if the testing properly identifies the drug and verifies its potency, the state said in a federal court filing.

The prisons agency also announced it is adding nurse practitioners and registered nurses to the list of execution team members who could provide advice about executions.

It's unclear if those professionals would begin participating as a result of Monday's changes. Medical associations, including those representing doctors and nurses, have long opposed their members taking part in capital punishment.

But it would also be difficult to know if they offered help. A law that took effect in March now keeps confidential the names of participants in Ohio executions. Adding nurse practitioners and registered nurses is consistent with protections provided by the law, the state said.

The new law also shields the names of companies that provide lethal injection drugs. The anonymity for companies — which would last 20 years — is aimed at compounding pharmacies that mix the doses of specialty drugs.

Prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith declined comment on Monday's changes. Messages were left with defense attorneys who have been challenging Ohio's execution drug policies and the new law.

The updated rules come as Ohio is trying to find new supplies of execution drugs as pharmaceutical companies put drugs used in the past off limits for capital punishment.

No executions are scheduled this year as the prisons agency looks for supplies of either pentobarbital or sodium thiopental — powerful sedatives it has used in the past but which are virtually unavailable in any form but compounded.

The state has set 21 execution dates beginning early next year and stretching nearly four years into 2019.

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