An Oklahoma pharmacy will not be providing the medication for a Missouri execution. Michael Taylor is scheduled for execution next week. However, the ruling could delay his death. Compounded Pentobarbital is used for execution by lethal injection. However, it is not readily available.
In 2011, the European Union voted to stop exporting medications that could be used in lethal injections. Although the United States previously used a three-drug cocktail for many executions, the ban prompted several states to switch to compounded pentobarbital, which is administered in a single dose.
Within the US, Akorn Inc. is the only company with a license to manufacture the drug. Although they are permitted to manufacture it, they are prohibited from distributing it for executions.
While the drug cannot be distributed by Akorn for executions, compounded pentobarbital is still being manufactured by other pharmacies. However, the pharmacies that distribute compounded pentobarbital for lethal injections are not approved by the United States Food & Drug Administration.
As reported by NPR, Michael Taylor’s attorney argued that The Apothecary Shoppe was illegally producing and distributing the drug for executions. The lawsuit alleges that the Oklahoma pharmacy is violating federal law.
Last week, a federal judge ruled that the state of Missouri cannot obtain compounded pentobarbital from The Apothecary Shoppe. Although the drug is no longer available from the Oklahoma pharmacy, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said Taylor’s execution will not be stalled.
During a news conference, the governor said “the Department of Corrections is prepared to carry out that execution.” Although he would not comment about availability of the necessary drug, the governor expressed confidence that the execution will continue as scheduled.
As part of the lawsuit, Taylor’s attorney also argued that use of compounded pentobarbital would cause him to experience “severe, unnecessary, lingering, and ultimately inhumane pain.”
The lawsuit cites several examples where the drug produced unexpected results.
In October 2012, Eric Robert’s heart reportedly continued beating for 10 minutes after the drug was administered. According to the lawsuit, it took nearly 20 minutes for Robert to die.
In January, Michael Lee Wilson complained during his execution. He reported that he could feel his “whole body burning.”
The lawsuit contends that “these events are consistent with receipt of a contaminated or sub-potent compound drug.”
Although it is unclear whether Taylor’s execution will be stalled, the federal Judge’s decision will add to the ongoing controversy surrounding capital punishment. The Oklahoma pharmacy has not commented about the judge’s ruling.
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