Paul D. Cramm

Drug Company Blocks Orders of Drug for Lethal Injection

Another manufacturer blocks drug for execution use, clouding Missouri’s plans


The Associated Press

COLUMBIA — A manufacturer of the anesthetic blamed for Michael Jackson’s overdose death says it won’t allow the drug to be sold for use in executions.

Drugmaker Fresenius Kabi USA is one of two domestic suppliers of propofol, which has been singled out as a lethal injection alternative amid a drug shortage that has forced several states to revise their execution protocols.

Missouri this year said it would become the first state to use propofol as an execution drug.

Fresenius Kabi confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday that it has told distributors it will not accept orders from U.S. corrections departments.

Hospira is the only other company that has distributed propofol in the U.S., but it has exhausted its current supply and has come out with strong opposition to the drug’s use in executions.

Fresenius Kabi spokesman Matt Kuhn said the company told its distributors in late August that such usage contradicts the drug’s medical purpose and is “inconsistent” with the company’s mission. It is also forbidden under European Union laws to export drugs that could be used in executions.

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“Fresenius Kabi objects to the use of its products in any manner that is not in full accordance with the medical indications for which they have been approved by health authorities,” a company statement reads. “Consequently, the company does not accept orders for propofol from any departments of correction in the United States. Nor will it do so.”

Most of the 33 states with the death penalty had long used sodium thiopental as the first of a three-drug combination administered during lethal injections. But sodium thiopental became unavailable when its European supplier acknowledged pressure from death penalty opponents and stopped selling it for executions.

Supplies mostly ran out or expired, forcing states to consider alternatives. Most states have retained the three-drug method but turned to pentobarbital, a barbiturate used to treat anxiety and convulsive disorders such as epilepsy, as a replacement for sodium thiopental. But pentobarbital supplies also have shrunk after its manufacturer said it would try to prevent its use in executions.

Officials with the Missouri attorney general’s office and the Department of Corrections didn’t immediately respond Thursday to requests seeking comment about the propofol maker’s stance. In August, the Missouri Supreme Court declined Attorney General Chris Koster’s request to set execution dates for six death row inmates, calling it “premature” pending the uncertainty over propofol’s availability.

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About the Author

This practice has been exclusively devoted to all levels of criminal defense from misdemeanor offenses in municipal court to felony matters in the Federal courts of Kansas and the Western District of Missouri. Paul D. Cramm is qualified to provide defense in Capital and Death Penalty cases.