Update on Lethal Injection as Sole U.S. Manufacturer of Key Drug Ceases Production

On January 21, Hospira Inc., the sole U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, announced that it will no longer produce an anesthetic commonly used in lethal injections around the United States. Hospira, which had planned to produce the drug in its plant in Italy, made the decision to end production of the anesthetic after Italian officials demanded that the company make sure it will not be used for executions.  Nebraska, a state that has not had an execution since 1997, obtained a supply of sodium thiopental from India that expires in 2012. In 2010, a shortage of sodium thiopental from Hospira led states like Arizona and California to seek international suppliers, and states like Oklahoma to seek alternative anesthetics. Oklahoma switched to pentobarbital, a drug used in euthanizing animals, for its three-drug protocol. Earlier this week, Ohio announced its intent to switch to a lethal dose of pentobarbital for its one-drug protocol. Click here for State-by-State Lethal Injection information.  For general information on the lethal injection, click here.

(B. Japsen, "Hospira ceases production of anesthetic used in executions," The Chicago Tribune, January 21, 2011, and other news sources).