Justice Dept. says FDA lacks jurisdiction to regulate drugs in executions

Justice Dept. says FDA lacks jurisdiction to regulate drugs in executions
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The Justice Department said in a legal opinion Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have jurisdiction over drugs used in lethal injections.

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel said that “articles intended for use in capital punishment by a state or the federal government cannot be regulated as ‘drugs’ or ‘devices.’ ” Therefore, it stated, the FDA “lacks jurisdiction.”

The opinion was signed by Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel, an appointee of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE.

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The opinion is the result of a years-long dispute between Texas and the FDA that began in 2015 when the agency blocked the Lone Star State from importing shipments of an anesthetic from an overseas distributor. The FDA said the importation was illegal because the drug was not approved in the U.S. and was mislabeled.

Texas officially filed suit in 2017, shortly before Trump took office, saying the FDA was meddling in its law enforcement obligations.

The Justice Department’s legal opinion sides with Texas in the suit, though it is unclear if it will have immediate impact. The FDA has been operating under a 2012 court injunction prohibiting the drug, sodium thiopental, from being imported.

The Justice Department has not indicated if it will fight to have the injunction removed, an effort that could result in a lengthy court battle.

Trump and both of his Senate-confirmed attorneys general, Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSarah Sanders to leave White House Sarah Sanders to leave White House Barr compares his return to DOJ to D-Day invasion MORE and William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump's Justice Department should change its tune on antitrust policy Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community MORE, have voiced support for capital punishment.

States have had difficulties in obtaining drugs for lethal injections in recent years after drug companies objected to having their products used in executions, causing a shortage in available materials, according to The Washington Post. Some pharmaceutical companies have gone to court to prevent their products from being used in lethal objections.