The anesthetic used in most lethal injection cocktails in the US had long been sodium thiopental. The sole manufacturer, until 2010, was Hospira Inc., which never officially approved the use of its drug for executions.
Hospira transferred its manufacturing plant for the sodium thiopental to a state-of-the art factory in Italy in order to increase an already very small profit margin on this product. Italy, one of the leading European countries opposed to the death penalty, imposed a clause in Hospira’s sales contract, before approving this activity on its territory, in order to restrict the use of sodium thiopental for medical purposes exclusively. Unable to uphold this clause, because of wholesale suppliers, Hospira decided to stop producing the sodium thiopental altogether. Several US states went out of their way, at the taxpayers’ expense, to acquire – sometimes paying 1000% of the market value – the remaining stock of sodium thiopental via several wholesalers in Europe and India or even via other departments of corrections in the US, which had sufficient stock.
For the killing states, it was urgent to replace the sodium thiopental and so pentobarbital was chosen, either as a substitute for the sodium thiopental or as a one-drug solution to be used for the upcoming executions.
So enters Lundbeck, a reputed European pharmaceutical laboratory based in Denmark.
To be continued…