Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) suspended an execution on Friday amid controversy over the drugs being used for lethal injection during the U.S. pentobarbital shortage.
States across the country use pentobarbital to perform lethal injections, but there is a shortage of the drug now that the Danish producer has refused to sell it for the purpose of executing humans.
Missouri was poised to perform the first ever execution by the drug propofol, the anesthetic which killed Michael Jackson four years ago. The European Union threatened to limit the export of propofol if it was being used to kill humans.
The leading anesthetic used in American hospitals and clinics, 90 percent of the nation’s propofol is imported from Europe, according to New York Daily News. American pharmaceutical company Fresenius Kabi USA says the drug is administered about 50 million times annually in the U.S.
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Arizona and Texas both used controversial drugs to perform two executions this week. The pentobarbital used was created in local compound labs, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. One such lab was responsible for an outbreak of deadly meningitis in November 2012 due to poor hygiene.
Nixon told the Missouri Department of Corrections it will have to find another way to perform lethal injections.
"This is a decision that will be welcomed by the medical community and patients nationwide who were deeply concerned about the potential of a drug shortage," said John Ducker, CEO of Fresenius Kabi USA.
"As governor, my interest is in making sure justice is served and public health is protected," Nixon said in a statement. "That is why, in light of the issues that have been raised surrounding the use of propofol in executions, I have directed the Department of Corrections that the execution of Allen Nicklasson, as set for October 23, will not proceed."
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Nicklasson, 41, was convicted of the 1994 murders of three people, all good Samaritans who stopped to help him and his two accomplices when their car had broke down along I-70.