Georgia's supply of the single drug it uses to perform executions is set to expire next month, and state officials haven't said whether they've found a way to get more of the powerful sedative that is in relatively short supply.
The state has 17 vials of pentobarbital, which is enough for six lethal injections, corrections officials said. Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan did not respond to questions about what the state might be doing to obtain more pentobarbital, but she said the state doesn't intend to change its execution method.
Georgia changed its execution protocol from a three-drug combination to a single-drug method using pentobarbital in July. It had been using pentobarbital to sedate inmates before injecting pancuronium bromide to paralyze them and then potassium chloride to stop their hearts.
The state has two executions scheduled this week. Warren Lee Hill is set to be executed Tuesday evening and Andrew Allen Cook is set to be put to death Thursday evening. The state doesn't currently have any executions set, and it's unlikely any others will be scheduled before the state's pentobarbital expires March 1, Hogan said.
A number of states have grappled with difficulties securing drugs for executions in recent years as manufacturers of the drugs, which generally have other medical purposes, said they didn't want their drugs used for executions.
There has been some indication that some states may turn to compounding pharmacies to get pentobarbital. Such pharmacies custom-mix solutions, creams and other medications in doses or forms that generally aren't commercially available.
But that could have additional challenges. Ohio, which also uses a single dose of pentobarbital, has enough pentobarbital to execute four inmates, but has nine executions scheduled after that. The state's prisons agency indicated last week that it wants a law to protect compounding pharmacies that might mix execution drugs. Currently, Ohio state law doesn't allow compounding pharmacies to mix drugs if they're commercially available.
Related posts are in the lethal injection index.