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January 5, 2011

Lethal injection drug supply continuing to be an issue in new year

My local Columbus Dispatch has this article this morning about the continuing struggles for death penalty states having a supply of lethal injection drugs.  The piece is headlined "Supply of lethal drug is unsure; State has enough to put prisoner to death Feb. 17," and here are excerpts:

With Ohio's first execution of 2011 scheduled in about six weeks, uncertainty continues over the international availability of the sole drug used in the state's lethal-injection protocol.

In a pending Arizona murder case, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has indicated it will use "enforcement discretion" in allowing states to import sodium thiopental, a drug used in executions. Arizona bought the drug from England but through a "broker," The Arizona Republic reported.

It is the only drug Ohio has used in executions for the past year; other states use it as one of three drugs in combination. JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the agency "has enough sodium thiopental for the execution scheduled in February. Beyond that, we're not going to comment on our supply."

Smith wouldn't say whether the state has purchased or plans to purchase the drug from England or other foreign sources. The sole U.S. manufacturer of the drug does not expect to resume production until the spring. Both the British and Italian governments have banned the exportation of sodium thiopental produced in those countries for use in U.S. executions.

Arizona officials apparently got around that restriction, however, by ordering the drug through a broker and having it shipped directly to Phoenix, where it was processed by local customs officials.

Gary C. Mohr, named yesterday by Gov.-elect John Kasich as the state's prison director, said of the drug issue, "That obviously has to be a top priority to make sure that we are ready."

January 5, 2011 at 10:27 AM | Permalink

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