Texas may run out of death penalty drug

death_penalty_drug_shortage.jpg

A new report suggests Texas and other states may run out of a crucial drug which is part of the lethal injection administered as part of the death penalty. A lethal injection chamber in Huntsville, TX, June 23, 2000. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

Credit:

Joe Raedle

Texas, the state that led America in the largest number of executions last year, might be running out of the lethal drug used to administer the death penalty, reported the Guardian.

The Guardian estimated that Texas will not be able to carry out any death sentences beyond June, because it only has enough of the drug pentobarbital – the middle step in the triple lethal injection – to carry out six more executions.

The Danish company Lundbeck, which manufactures pentobarbital under the name Nembutal, wrote to Governor Rick Scott (R-Fl.) in September 2011 urging that the drug not be used as an anesthetic in executions, according to The Washington Post. The president of the company, Staffan Schuberg, said that the use of the drug “contradicts everything Lundbeck is in business to do—provide therapies that improve people's lives.”

Executioners turned to the drug as an alternative after supply of the anesthetic sodium thiopental, produced by the US company Hospira, was suspended “in protest at its use to kill people,” said the Guardian, in an older article.

On Feb. 9, the Associated Press reported that death row inmates from Tennessee, Arizona and California were suing to stop the Food and Drug Administration from importing sodium thiopental, since it is an unapproved drug. “The Obama administration argues it has discretion to allow unapproved drugs into the U.S. and wants Leon to dismiss the case.”

More on GlobalPost: Number of death sentences declined in 2011: report

Texas’ number of executions is notoriously high and presidential hopeful Governor Rick Perry (R-Tex.) defended its record during a debate in September, amid applause from the audience.

Here is a clip from the Sep. 7 debate: