In response to complaints and requests from drug manufacturers, particular those located in the European Union, Missouri has announced that it will be turning to undisclosed compounding pharmacies for its lethal injection drugs, a statement from the Missouri Department of Correction read. It was reported that the state government has an agreement with a compounding pharmacy to begin using pentobarbital in its executions.
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
“Pharmacy compounding is a practice in which a licensed pharmacist combines, mixes, or alters ingredients in response to a prescription to create a medication tailored to the medical needs of an individual patient.”
David Owen, the department spokesperson, would not reveal the name of the compounding pharmacy. This has angered the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and prompted them to issue a statement on the matter:
“The state has retaliated by now making it illegal to name anyone who supplies the drugs. This is not the open and transparent government that Missourians deserve,” the organization stated.
Pentobarbital, which is usually consumed for sedative and pre-anesthetic purposes, is currently used in more than a dozen states for executions. Some of these states have also turned to compounding pharmacies to manufacture the drug. Richard Dieter, Death Penalty Information Center director, told Al Jazeera that those compounding pharmacies have the capacity to create single doses from raw ingredients.
Dieter added: “It’s critical that the dosage be potent and pure. You don’t want a very lengthy process.”
Health professionals concur that when pharmacy compounding is completed correctly it can become an important public health remedy for patients that cannot be treated and healed with a standard, FDA-approved medication.
The Show-Me State announced earlier in October that it would be returning its supply of propofol from a U.S. distributor after the European drug maker expressed its concerns over the state’s execution practices.
Elizabeth Carlyle, a Kansas City attorney, told the same news network that the new measure does provide them with some concerns but wouldn’t elaborate on what they were because it still requires consultation from their experts and more research.
At the present time, drugs generated by compounding pharmacies are not regulated by the FDA, which has various public health organizations and opponents of the death penalty concerned about the safety of its usage. Furthermore, once the names of compounding pharmacies are revealed, they risk facing public outrage, such as one pharmacy did when it received hate mail and negative publicity from local media outlets.
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said compounding pharmacies are in the industry of improving the health and lives of patients rather than becoming the “henchman” for state governments.
“Why should compounders be forced to now play henchman to the ever-hungry executioner,” said Foa. “Good compounders want to improve the lives and health of patients; they don’t wish to be mired in execution drug controversies, forced to mix drugs to kill prisoners in dangerous and experimental executions.”
The next execution is scheduled for Nov. 20 and will be for Joseph Paul Franklin, who was recently sentenced to death for the murder of Gerald Gordon in St. Louis that took place nearly four decades ago. Pentobarbital will be used.