NBC News posts, "Specialty pharmacies fill execution drug shortage, raising concerns," by Erin McClam.
Death penalty states, suddenly faced with a shortage of drugs for executions, are increasingly turning to loosely regulated compounding pharmacies for the lethal dose — raising concerns about safety and secrecy.
Compounding pharmacies, which mix drugs under custom orders, drew national attention last year, after a meningitis outbreak killed 64 people and was traced to steroid injections brewed at a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts.
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate compounding pharmacies, although a bill awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature would give the FDA limited power to inspect and close the largest of them.
States are using compounding pharmacies to mix lethal injections because some major drug companies in recent years have stopped making drugs for executions or ordered that they not be used to put inmates to death.
A federal judge, Nanette Laughrey, granted Franklin a stay of execution on Tuesday and pointed out that the state had issued three different execution protocols in three months, one as recently as five days earlier.
“Franklin has been given no time to research the risk of pain associated with the department’s new protocol, the quality of the pentobarbital provided, and the record of the source of the pentobarbital,” she wrote.
A federal appeals court and the Supreme Court ruled against Franklin, however. He was put to death Wednesday minutes after the Supreme Court decision. The governor’s office did not return a request for comment.
Compounding pharmacies are at the center of a raft of recent legal challenges aimed at forestalling executions. Death penalty opponents say that the pharmacies cannot be trusted to produce safe drugs and that executions could be unusually cruel as a result.
“We don’t know quite what they’re getting,” said Deborah W. Denno, a professor at Fordham University law school who has written extensively about the death penalty. “It’s not being tested or approved in the way that it typically would be.”
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