SAN QUENTIN (AP) — California’s prison department said Monday it has turned to an overseas manufacturer to replenish its supplies of sodium thiopental, a drug necessary to carry out executions in the state.
The state paid $36,415 to acquire 521 grams of the drug manufactured by Archimedes Pharma of Great Britain, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton said.
The order was placed overseas after the department’s domestic supplier Hospira Inc. — the nation’s only sodium thiopental maker — said production problems had hindered its ability to deliver fresh supplies.
Sodium thiopental has historically been used as a general anesthetic but is also the first of three drugs given during the lethal injection process for death row prisoners.
The U.S. has a shortage of sodium thiopental, and multiple states have halted or slowed the pace of lethal injections while searching for alternative sources of the drug.
The shortage of usable sodium thiopental contributed to the Sept. 29 cancellation of the scheduled execution of Albert Greenwood Brown in California. The prison department received a shipment of 12 grams from Arizona’s prison department the next day.
Both new supplies expire in 2014. The disclosure of the sources and cost came after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit seeking that information.
The execution of Brown, who was convicted of abducting, raping and murdering a high school student then taunting her mother, has not been rescheduled.
The attorney general’s office has told U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel that it would not schedule another execution until the judge rules on a lawsuit alleging California’s lethal injection process is unconstitutional.
The state of Arizona also received a shipment from Archimedes it used to execute Jeffrey Landrigan on Oct. 26. After that execution, Britain’s Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable issued an order adding sodium thiopental to the list of items that must be licensed for export.
Companies seeking to ship the drugs abroad will be required to prove they are intended for medical use, not execution.
The British government acted after the London-based rights group Reprieve and London law firm Leigh Day & Co. filed suit to halt the drug’s export.
California’s order was apparently placed before Arizona’s and made through a wholesaler.
Archimedes said it distributes the drug primarily to hospital pharmacies but also to some wholesalers. Archimedes said it has no control or knowledge of the wholesalers’ customers.
“Consistent with applicable regulations, Archimedes does not have information on specific end purchasers or users of its products,” said company spokesman Gregory Tiberend.
Thorton said California’s shipment is already in the United States, on the East Coast, awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration for delivery. Thornton said the Drug Enforcement Agency has authorized release of the drug to the prison department.
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