Drug Makers are Refusing to Give Texas Drugs for Rampant Executions: State May Turn to Propofol
BY: John “Hennry” Harris
Death row prisoners in Texas, the nation’s most active death penalty state, may be able to breathe a small sigh of relief as the state is running out of its execution drug.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said that its remaining supply of pentobarbital expires in September and that no alternatives have been found. Pentobarbital is a prescription drug (barbiturate) that is used to relieve tension, anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia. The current supply of pentobarbital in the Texas prison system is about to expire and it is not clear whether two executions scheduled for next month will be delayed.
According to agency spokesman Jason Clark, “We are exploring all options at this time.”
Texas and other death-penalty states are facing opposition from drug suppliers, who have made one of the drugs used in three-drug execution “cocktail” difficult to obtain. Some drug suppliers have barred the drug’s use for executions or are refusing to sell or manufacture drugs for use in executions.
“When Texas raises a flag that’s it having a problem, obviously numerically it’s significant around in the country because like they’re doing half the executions in the country right now,” Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty organization said.
“The states really scramble to go all over to get drugs,” he said. “Some went overseas, some got from each other. But these manufacturers, a number them are based in Europe, don’t want to participate in our executions. So they’ve clamped down as much as they can,” Dieter said.
Death penalty states are looking toward alternatives such as turning to compounding pharmacies that make customized drugs accepted by the Federal Drug Administration and Missouri is even considering using propofol, the anesthetic cited in the death of Michael Jackson.
Pentobarbital, lethal in 5 gram doses, has been used either alone or with a mixture of other drugs in all U.S. executions over the last two years, was readily available because it was commonly used as a sedative.
Health professionals have been able to disrupt distribution by applying pressure with other death-penalty opponents, but no executions in Texas have been delayed thus far because of the shortfall. Since 1982, six years after the Supreme Court allowed executions to resume, Texas has executed 503 inmates with Virginia second at 110 executions.
As of May 2012, Texas had enough pentobarbital to execute as many as 23 prisoners. Last Wednesday’s execution marked the 20th lethal injection. It looks like some doctors are fighting to save lives inside and outside of the hospital.
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