The state of Nevada on Wednesday will perform its first execution in 12 years using fentanyl, the drug at the heart of America's opioid abuse epidemic, as it faces questions over how it obtained the drug.
The Guardian reports that Nevada will execute Scott Dozier, a convicted double murderer, after the state put executions on hold for more than a decade due to drug manufacturers' opposition to providing drugs for use in executions.
Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have sued the state and forced it to turn over invoices, revealing smaller purchases of fentanyl over months at a time in an apparent attempt to disguise the purpose of the drug's purchase.
ACLU attorneys and other critics have questioned how the state obtained the drug, according to The Guardian, including whether state officials broke the law to obtain it or whether the multibillion-dollar drug distribution company Cardinal Health ignored evidence the drug sales were intended to be used for executions.
“Using fentanyl in an execution is particularly strange and confusing because of its place in the opioid epidemic,” ACLU legal director Amy Rose said. “But on top of that it’s never been used in an execution before. It’s extremely experimental. There is a very real risk of a botched execution.”
“It’s concerning that Cardinal Health would sell it to the department of corrections if it knew the drugs would be used in executions,” Rose added. She said that the ACLU is seeking to understand whether state authorities “lied to Cardinal in any way."
Fentanyl-laced drugs have been at the center of the opioid abuse epidemic for years, as drug is often sold on the street as a more potent version of heroin or other opioids.
In 2016, 59,000 to 65,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Overdose death numbers have not yet been released for 2017.