(05-25) 18:33 PDT SAN FRANCISCO --California prison officials are defying a U.S. Food and Drug Administration order to return supplies of a foreign-made drug used in executions, saying they disagree with a federal judge's ruling that the drug was imported illegally without an FDA safety review.
The FDA, which also disagreed with the judge and argued that no such review is required, said Friday that it will appeal the ruling.
The dispute adds further uncertainty to the resumption of executions in California, blocked since 2006 by an order by another federal judge who found numerous flaws in the state's procedures for lethal injections.
The drug, sodium thiopental, is an anesthetic used by California and most other states to render a prisoner unconscious at the start of the execution process. After the sole U.S. manufacturer stopped production in 2009, California and several other states got new supplies from a British distributor of Austrian-made sodium thiopental.
The FDA, which tests foreign-made medications for safety and effectiveness before allowing their distribution, approved the drug's shipments without inspection, saying a review of execution drugs was not part of its "public health role." A judge in Washington, D.C., disagreed in March and told the agency to halt the imports and to tell states to return their supplies to the FDA.
Read more: SF Gate