Despite a shortage of lethal-injection drugs, two of the nation's most active death penalty states have quietly carried on with executions by turning to pentobarbital, a powerful sedative that generally puts inmates to death swiftly and without complications.
Missouri and Texas have avoided the prolonged executions seen in other states where authorities are struggling to find a reliable chemical combination. The drug's apparent effectiveness raises questions about why it has not been more widely adopted.
But in recent years, major drugmakers, many of them in Europe, stopped selling pharmaceuticals for use in executions, citing ethical concerns. By 2011, with sodium thiopental no longer available, Ohio became the first state to use pentobarbital in a single-drug execution.
Soon, the Danish maker of pentobarbital, Lundbeck Inc., initiated efforts to keep it out of the hands of corrections departments. That led Ohio and some other states that initially used the drug to abandon it.
Missouri and Texas have turned to compounding pharmacies to make versions of pentobarbital. But like most states, they refuse to name their drug suppliers, creating a shroud of secrecy that has prompted lawsuits.
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