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Supplier: Drug sold to Arkansas not intended for executions

Supplier: Drug sold to Arkansas not intended for executions

The unprecedented schedule of executions was announced after Arkansas prison officials acquired a supply of potassium chloride, adding to the stock of midazolam they now have.

"Fresenius Kabi understands the state of Arkansas may have acquired quantities of the company's potassium chloride from an unauthorised source or sources, and that the state intends to use the medication in executions this month".

Judge Wendell Griffen of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Little Rock issued the order after a petition from McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. "Attorney General Rutledge is evaluating options on how to proceed".

Midazolam - one part of the three-drug lethal injection "cocktail" - is set to expire at the end of April, and has been criticised as contributing to several botched executions in other states.

According to court documents, McKesson Medical-Surgical Incorporated filed the temporary restraining order for an "injuctive relief" and for the state of Arkansas to return its property, 10 vials of 20mg Vecuronium bromide. Baker is expected to rule Friday on the inmates' request to halt the executions.

The state said it would return the drug, McKesson said, and the company issued a refund, but the drug was never returned.

McKesson said it's considering "all possible means" to get the drug back, including legal action.

A prisons spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Friday granted an emergency stay in the scheduled execution of Bruce Earl Ward, the first of seven inmates scheduled to die over an 11-day period beginning Monday.

The Associated Press past year used redacted drug labels to identify Hospira, which was purchased by Pfizer, as the likely manufacturer of vecuronium bromide.

"There is no question of guilt", Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson told reporters.

Fresenius Kabi said it believes it manufactured the potassium chloride, while West-Ward is believed to have made the state's supply of midazolam. Pfizer has objected to the use of its drugs in lethal injections and has put controls in place to prevent them from being used in executions. McKesson supplies the drug - which is produced by Hospira and its parent company, Pfizer - to pharmacies, hospitals and other organizations.

Drug companies have recently joined the fray, with two manufacturers filing a brief this week arguing that the state had improperly obtained their drugs and planned to use them.

The timeline drew condemnation from hundreds of death penalty opponents who rallied at the Capitol waving signs including a large banner that read, "We remember the victims ..."

The actor Johnny Depp appeared alongside Damien Echols, who spent almost 18 years on Arkansas' death row before he was freed in 2011 in a plea deal in which he maintained his innocence.

"These are the people who showed me more kindness, compassion and generosity than any of the good people trying to kill them ever did", Echols said of the inmates on death row awaiting execution.

Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005 due to drug shortages and legal challenges.

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