September 28, 2012 http://www.columbiatribune.com
A manufacturer of the anesthetic blamed for Michael Jackson’s death said yesterday it won’t sell propofol for use in U.S. executions, a setback for Missouri and other states seeking an alternative after other drug makers also objected to their products’ use in lethal injections.
Drug maker Fresenius Kabi USA, a German company with U.S. offices based in Schaumburg, Ill., is one of only two domestic suppliers of propofol and is the only one currently distributing in the United States. Earlier this year, Missouri adopted a new single-drug execution method that would make it the first state to use propofol on death-row inmates. Other states also have considered incorporating the drug into their lethal injections.
Fresenius Kabi spokesman Matt Kuhn confirmed to The Associated Press that the company told its distributors in late August that such usage is “inconsistent” with the company’s mission. It’s also forbidden under European Union laws to export drugs that could be used in executions.
“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 that drug also 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. Pentobarbital supplies also have shrunk after its manufacturer said it would try to prevent its use in executions.
A spokeswoman for the Missouri attorney general’s office declined comment yesterday, and Department of Corrections officials didn’t respond to several requests seeking comment about Fresenius Kabi’s decision. In August, the state 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.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, called the drug maker’s decision the latest obstacle to a capital punishment procedure that until several years ago had been virtually unchanged for more than three decades.
“States have chosen a medical model. And in general, the medical profession is not involved in things other than life-preserving acts,” he said. “It’s going to be an ongoing problem.”
Hospira, the only other company that distributes propofol in the U.S., has exhausted its supply and doesn’t expect to release the drug for further sale until at least October or November.