In response to a Freedom of Information request from the federal government, The Texas Department of Criminal Justice revealed that the drugs used during state executions were obtained from a confounding pharmacy. The drug, called pentobarbital, had been supplied by the pharmacy to the state for an undisclosed amount of time, but the supply recently ran out. Texas authorities and prison officials have not disclosed the new supplier of the drug, or what the exact drug to be used may be.
Compounding pharmacies typically exist in order to provide medication that fits the specific needs of an individual patient if there is no general drug on the market that caters to those needs. These pharmacies do not need to be accredited, and they are only regulated once every three years. When a compounding pharmacy begins manufacturing drugs on a large scale (creating drugs not specifically tailored to an individual), this is subject to regulation by the federal government. This method of mass pharmaceutical production has been known to create unsafe substances.
The Texas prison system revealed its supplier of pentobarbital after undergoing a lawsuit initiated by three inmates on the state’s death row. The federal lawsuit alleges that “Texas’ use of untested drugs during an execution violates the Constitution’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment,” the AP reports. This would be regulated by the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment. Texas carries out the largest amount of executions out of all 50 states.
The drug pentobarbital has been used exclusively in executions throughout the state for at least the past year. Michael Yowell, one of the death row inmates involved with the suit, is scheduled to be executed on October 9th, but has asked for a temporary injunction to delay the event while the lawsuit continues, according to the Dallas Observer.