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Missouri to return execution drug after European objections

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - The state of Missouri said on Wednesday it will return an anesthetic it planned to use for executions after the German manufacturer voiced concerns that using it for lethal injections could lead to the European Union to ban export of the drug to the United States.

The Missouri Department of Corrections said in a statement that it will send a 2012 order of propofol back to Morris & Dickson LLC, a Louisiana company that supplied the drug.

A spokesman for Fresenius Kabi, a German maker of propofol, said the European Union has threatened to ban the exportation of the drug if it is used in an execution in the United States.

"If it were restricted or banned, it would have terrible consequences," said Geoffrey Fenton, a company spokesman, who is based in Illinois.

Missouri was expected to be the first U.S. state to use propofol in an execution when it scheduled Allen Nicklasson to be put to death on October 23, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Propofol, which is mostly made in Europe, is administered about 50 million times a year in the United States during various surgical procedures, according to the manufacturer.

U.S. states have been changing the drugs they use in executions and scrambling to find new sources of drugs for lethal injections over the last two years as major pharmaceutical companies have stopped selling drugs for executions.

The death penalty is banned in the European Union and governments and companies there have long tried to stop use of drugs produced or licensed there from being used in U.S. executions.

Missouri still has some propofol that was produced by a domestic manufacturer, the department said in a statement.

Corrections officials were not immediately available for comment.

Missouri is also scheduled to execute Joseph Franklin on November 20.

On October 4, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections in an attempt to make public documents about the state's supply of propofol.

A group of death row inmates in Missouri have argued in lawsuits that the drug, which was blamed for the 2009 death of pop star Michael Jackson, causes pain and is cruel and unusual punishment. Missouri revised its execution protocol in 2012 to include the drug but has not held an execution since.

In August, the Missouri Supreme Court set execution dates for Nicklasson and Franklin after suspending an earlier decision due to concerns over the state's use of propofol.

(Reporting By Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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