This morning, the maker of a key drug used for lethal injection, Sodium thiopental, announced it would cease manufacturing the drug. Italy refused the ability to produce the drug there unless Hospira Inc, the manufacturer, could guarantee the drug would not be used to put people to death.
The company has long deplored the drug’s use in executions, but said it regretted having to stop production. Hospira continues to make two other drugs that, in addition to medical uses, are also used by states for executions — pancuronium bromide, which paralyze inmates, and potassium chloride, which stop inmates’ hearts.
The company’s Italian plant was the only viable facility where Hospira could manufacture sodium thiopental, Rosenberg said.
The current shortage of the drug had disrupted executions in Arizona, California, Kentucky, Ohio — which nearly ran out last spring — and Oklahoma.
In the fall, states including Arizona, Arkansas, California and Tennessee turned to a British manufactured source of sodium thiopental. But that supply dried up after the British government in November banned its export for use in executions.
Oklahoma went a different route, switching to pentobarbital, an anesthetic commonly used to put cats and dogs to sleep. The state has conducted two executions with the new drug.
Death penalty opponents are now going after both the drug makers as well as the states who use them in a different approach to their long fight against the death penalty. At this very moment, there is a hearing on an injunction filed by the Georgia based and internationally prominent Southern Center for Human Rights “ pertaining to the expenditure of public funds, purchases, inventory and expiration dates for drugs utilized in the lethal injection procedure in Georgia.”
The briefing on their website explains:
An Emergency Injunction was filed on January 20, 2011, seeking either an expedited hearing or stay of execution and full access to public records. A hearing was granted, which will address the Georgia Department of Corrections’ failure to disclose public records within the statutory timeframe pertaining to the expenditure of public funds, purchases, inventory and expiration dates for drugs utilized in the lethal injection procedure in Georgia. Information contained in these records are not exempt from public disclosure and are critical to addressing whether the State of Georgia is executing convicted persons by lethal injection, in a manner permitted by the constitution and in compliance with accepted medical and ethical standards.
With supplies short, the requested info can yield two pieces of information critical to this battle: 1) When was the last drug purchased, and what is it’s shelf life/is the drug which is in tight supply expired or nearing expiration?, and more importantly 2) who manufactures the drugs used. The second item being the key information that led to Hospira’s decision above.
Drug companies spend millions marketing their image as the ones who save lives. Death penalty opponants are now spending court time discovering which ones also profit off of ending them.