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Lethal Drug Shortage Contributes To Fewer Inmate Executions

Author Clark & Noonan, LLC
Posted June 16, 2017
Category Criminal Defense

Wall New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys serving Monmouth County, Ocean County, Middlesex County and all surrounding NJ areas.


Posted: October 30, 2013

States Faced With Trying New Drug Combinations, Or Finding New Suppliers

The inability to obtain pentobarbital has led to a decrease in the number of executions carried out in the United States. In 1998 98 inmates were executed; in 2011 and 2012 the number was less than half — 43 inmates were executed. Ten months in 2013, 32 inmates in the U.S. have been executed.

One of the reasons for the execution drug shortage is that drug companies are not interested in coming up with new drugs to be used in executions, and many are now reluctant to even supply drugs that will be used for lethal injection.

According to, “Most of manufacturers of lethal substances are located in the EU, which opposes the death penalty and discourages producers from supplying prisons with drugs for executions. The Danish pharmaceutical company, Lundbeck LLC, therefore stopped supplying pentobarbital.”

Amid a shortfall of lethal drugs used in prisoner executions, Florida has had to resort to the use of the sedative midazolam hydrochloride which has never before been used in U.S. executions. Other states that allow capital punishment are now reconsidering whether or not to end the practice due to the inability to obtain drugs used for lethal injection.

Ohio, which has also run out of the “gold standard” pentobarbital, now plans to use an untested combination of drugs in an execution next month of a 40-year-old man, Ronald Phillips. Phillips was given the death sentence based on a conviction for raping and killing his then girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter in 1993.

As Ohio looks to keep capital punishment laws in affect, the state continues to look at new drugs and new ways to obtain drugs, including allowing compounding pharmacies to produce drugs. Texas has also led the charge in considering compounding pharmacies as a source for lethal injection drugs and was hit with a lawsuit filed by death row inmates in October 2013. The lawsuit objects to the methods being proposed stating, the drug to be used in Texas carries “a high risk of excruciating pain.”

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