Ohio’s current execution policy calls for single doses of either sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, both powerful sedatives. But drugs for lethal injections are hard to come by. The EU banned the export of these drugs for use in executions. Ohio responded by passing a secrecy law, largely aimed at allowing unregulated compounding pharmacies to prepare execution drugs without fear of reprisal. But it is now less likely that these pharmacies will oblige: pharmacist organisations have advised their members against providing drugs for executions.
An Associated Press records request recently revealed that the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, where executions are carried out, successfully applied for an import license from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) late last year, for a “Law enforcement purpose”. The license will expire at the end of February next year. The prison’s application specifies importing ready-to-use and bulk supplies of sodium thiopental. It is unclear where Ohio is hoping to purchase the drug, but a manufacturer in India has apparently been approached by other states that want sodium thiopental.
Although the DEA has approved Ohio’s request for an import license, the state may nonetheless have difficulty actually acquiring the drug. A different body, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, regulates imports of drugs; it has stated that the import of sodium thiopental for executions is unlawful.
No wonder Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, has said,
“We have had difficulty finding and acquiring drugs, period.”
Long may this situation last.