RICHMOND (AP) -- Virginia's list of approved lethal injection drugs now includes one of the chemicals used in an Ohio execution that prompted a lawsuit.

The Virginia Department of Corrections says it has approved the sedative midazolam as an alternative first drug in the state's three-drug execution protocol.

'Midazolam can be used in a higher dose and would render a person unconscious, but does not affect the cardiovascular system very much, so the heart would keep beating,' said Paul Werbin, a Virginia Beach nurse anesthetist. 'It has a minimal affect on breathing, so a person that received a large dosage of midazolam would likely keep breathing, although not always.'

Midazolam was one of two drugs used in last month's execution of an Ohio inmate who made snorting and gasping sounds and took 26 minutes to die. His family is suing Ohio, alleging the death was cruel and inhuman.

The company that manufactures midazolam opposes its use for capital punishment but has been unable to stop some state prison systems from obtaining it.

Virginia prison officials did not immediately respond to questions about their decision to approve the drug.

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