Getting hold of drugs for executions is growing harder. Pentobarbital was introduced as an alternative to sodium thiopental, a barbiturate used alone or in combination with two other drugs for executions—and not for much else. The EU restricts its sales. Britain bans its export. Its American maker stopped making it in 2011.
Shortages call for creative solutions. As old stocks expire, several states have turned to “compounding pharmacies”—speciality suppliers that mix their own drugs from the raw active ingredients—to obtain new drugs. This is how Missouri plans to get hold of pentobarbital.
Yet using such rough-and-ready suppliers is controversial. In 2006 the FDA examined a sample of drugs from compounding pharmacies and found a third of them unusable. In past years up to a quarter of samples have failed state tests in Missouri, though failure rates have fallen recently. Contamination at a compounder in Massachusetts caused a deadly meningitis outbreak last year.
Also available, more recent news from Missouri involves an exoneration.