Georgia Apparently Buys Its Lethal Injection Drugs From An Unlicensed Pharmacy Run Out Of The Back Of A Driving School In London

I hear that buying certain drugs online from international pharmacies may be cheap.  At least, that’s what 75% of the mail in my spam folder says.  But apparently that is a route Georgia has been taking with regards to its purchases of sodium thiopental, according to documents released during a court hearing on Friday.  And, as expected, the Southern Center For Human Rights was in fact looking for drug records for the reasons we suspected on Friday.  They are now seeking an emergency injunction against the execution of Emanuel Hammond based on the fact that they believe it is unclear if Georgia’s drugs are even really sodium thiopental, and if so, is the drug still within its expiration date.

Given that the FDA bans importation of most drugs that are not from FDA approved sources, my gut is there’s probably enough here to at least win a delay, from the federal level if not the state.  Long term implications are anyone’s guess.

Full SCHR press release follows:

ATLANTA– Today, Superior Court Judge Michael D. Johnson heard further testimony in Hammond v. Owens, requesting access to public records from the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) pertaining to the records and origins of drugs utilized in the lethal injection procedure in Georgia. The lawsuit was filed by The Southern Center for Human Rights on behalf of Emanuel Hammond who is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday, January 25, 2011.  

At last Friday’s hearing, the Attorney General’s Office produced some of the requested GDOC records minutes before the hearing. In reviewing the provided documents over the weekend, Mr. Hammond’s attorneys discovered that the State of Georgia bought its lethal injection drugs from Dream Pharma Ltd, an unlicensed company operating from a back room within Elgone Driving School in London, England.
In a document presented to Judge Johnson today, the London based organization Reprieve stated that they consulted with the United Kingdom Counsel regarding the legality of Dream Pharma’s operation and expressed serious concerns as to whether the company is in compliance with British law or regulations and contacted the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates such companies.  The MHRA conducted a site visit to Dream Pharma late last week for inspection to investigate whether the back of a driving school is an acceptable location for a pharmaceutical company under United Kingdom law, as there is not suitable storage facilities for drugs and to determine if the owner is a “responsible person” defined by the law to run such an operation. Results of this investigation are still pending.
Based on these findings there are serious questions as to whether or not the chemicals in possession of the GDOC are in fact sodium thiopental, which Georgia protocol specifically requires be used in the execution procedure. The labels on the boxes of drug sold by Dream Pharma bear the name Link Pharmaceuticals. Link was bought by another company in 2006 and the Link name should not appear on drugs sold in 2010.  The mislabeling on the boxes calls into question whether the drugs bought by DOC are real and/or expired. There has been a nationwide shortage of the drug since 2008 and there have been numerous questions about where states are obtaining the first drug in the three drug process.  On Friday, January 21, Hospira, the sole US manufacturer of sodium thiopental issued a press release announcing that they are permanently halting production of the drug.
“Even the limited and heavily redacted records we have been provided access to question the authenticity of the drugs the GDOC intends to use to take Mr. Hammond’s life,” said Gerald Weber, Senior Attorney at SCHR who is representing Mr. Hammond.  “Too many unanswered questions remain to allow Mr. Hammond’s scheduled Tuesday execution to be carried out with any kind of confidence.”
SCHR asked the court this morning to insist that the GDOC hand over full information about their procurement of the drugs and issue a stay of execution to allow time for further investigation to be conducted. Judge Johnson ordered the GDOC to turn over the full and unredacted record, finding that the GDOC did fail to comply with the Open Records Act. Judge Johnson declined to halt Tuesday’s scheduled execution.
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 addressed 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.


    • B Balz says:

      First, their water, now their drugs. Is there no end to our dependence on Tennessee?

      “…The shortage hasn’t delayed any executions in Georgia, but state officials asked Tennessee to share its supply in early 2010. …”

  1. In a country where any high school dropout can cook up meth in a trailer, this seems like an easily-solved problem. Hospira is the sole manufacturer of the drug, which is used as an anesthetic. Hospira has never really liked being the only company that made the 3-drug combination used in lethal injections. When they shut down their plant in North Carolina and moved it to Italy, they found Italian opposition to the death penalty as a good excuse to stop producing the drug. Hence the shortage. Most death penalty states define, by statute, what their method of execution is. So those states can either change their laws and come up with a new method of execution, or hire some meth-heads to manufacture sodium thiopental.

        • B Balz says:

          I understand , Mr. Hassinger, your Good Book is the asterisk version: “Thou shalt not kill.*”

          100 years of experience unimpeded by progress.

          • Dave says:

            Balz, the literal translation of the biblical commandment that dictates, “Thou Shalt not Kill” is actually “Thou Shalt Not Murder.” Big difference, big difference. Hammonds deserves to die and it should have happened long, long ago. Let a member of the victim’s family push down the plunger. Guaranteed you’d find a taker there.

            • B Balz says:

              OH Goody. Scripture lesson!

              Yeah, well I grew up with the version that says, “kill”, I would have remembered ‘murder’….

              The overwhelming majority of our World’s civilized nations stand behind my interpretation. But, Dave, do go on and share your feelings about who deserves to die and who deserves to mete out justice in this World.

              Seriously, man, the death penalty fails on virtually every metric that defines just moral and true ethical conduct.

              Failure to acknowledge that basic concept indicates we may need to agree to disagree.

              hammond deserves to die that much is true. We simply disagree as to who shall decide.

              e, bu

              • Lady Thinker says:

                I have talked to priests and rabbi’s who agree that specific commandment means thou shall not murder. They had degrees in their religious systems and I don’t, so I tend to believe they know what they were talking about.

  2. OleDirtyBarrister says:

    The DOC better be careful using those drugs from a dubious source, it might kill someone.

    Oh, wait a minute….

  3. Rick Day says:

    As all y’all may have fathomed, I am not a keen proponent of state sponsored murder. However, I can envision a scenario that could be satisfactory in any scenario of either end of life by court order, or by choice. At least, satisfactory to me.

    Why does this process have to be so sterile. The taking of a life is not so much a ‘procedure’ as it is a ‘ritual’. Let’s allow the condemned to participate as more of a decision maker.

    Put the condemned (or the terminally ill volunteer, works for me either way) in an environment meant to relax, rather than be sanitized. Something out of the E.G. Robinson scene in ‘Soylant Green’ sans meat factory. Nice music, low lights, clean sheets.

    Low stress.

    Start an IV with a bag of morphine. Slap a button plunger in their hand and say “You have 20 seconds to push the button to stop the flow. Once you push it, it will slow to an occasional drip. Every time you let go and push, it will send more morphine into you.” And leave. Wait for heart monitors to cease signal and remove the body.

    Now think of the punishment (for those of you seeking vengeance): to know that eventually you are going to cause your own demise. Most people may use that time to accept their punishment, and move on with the process. Acceptance for the crime and taking responsibility is a cornerstone of conservative thinking *eyetic*

    Morphine is so cheap that Afghani farmers grow with by the field full. No one is going to question morphine as a ‘death drug’.

    The state gets off at worse, with a claim of ‘accessory before the fact’. But its’ better than “conspiracy to murder”.

    Apparently to the bloodthirsty who still insist on this barbaric ceremony as some twisted form of ‘justice’. dead is dead,. Rope. bullet or drug, it don’t seem to matter, as long as it is not stoning. That is what the Muz’lemz do.

    Take the decision of death out of the hands of the state and into the hands of the individual. Ann Rynd would approve.

    • B Balz says:

      Even if there was a 100% chance of not hanging the wrong person and there was a deterrent to capital punishment (Both conditions are virtually impossible to achieve), is that how you wish to define America?

  4. Lady Thinker says:

    How about public floggings? It could be used for minor offenders and keep them out of jail thus freeing up space for the more serious offenders. What do think about this alternative? Anyone?

    The last public whipping in Delaware took place in 1952, but the whipping law remained on the books until the 1973.

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