Wednesday, March 16, 2011

DEA Seizes Georgia's Execution Drug

Sodium thiopental is one of three-drugs used for executions in 32 of 34 states with the death penalty. Washington state uses a single dose of sodium thiopental, and Ohio uses a single dose of pentobarbital for executions.

Sodium thiopental has been is short supply as a result of Hospira, Inc., the lone U.S. manufacturer of the drug, discontinued its manufacture in the U.S. As a result, some states have looked overseas for the drug and obtained sodium thiopental from outside the U.S. and have successfully used it. At least five states — Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia and Tennessee — had to turn to England for their supply of the drug. Nebraska purchased a supply from an Indian firm. Although, the U.K. government has now banned the export of sodium thiopental for executions.

Georgia obtained a supply of sodium thiopental from an international source, although the state has no executions scheduled. However, Georgia’s stockpiling of the drug took an interesting twist. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the state's supply of sodium thiopental has been seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration due to concerns about how the drug was imported to the U.S.

The seizure comes less than two months after Georgia executed a man who argued the state bought its supply of the drug from a “fly-by-night” supplier in England, the Washington Post reports, citing The Associated Press. Lawyers for inmates have argued outdated and counterfeit drugs could cause unnecessary suffering during executions.

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