Ohio plans to use an untested drug combination in an upcoming execution in November, due to the shortage of the lethal injection drug pentobarbital.
Pentobarbital is used for lethal injections in 13 states. In 2011, Danish drug manufacturer Lundbeck, which holds the only license to produce the anesthetic in the U.S., banned sale of the drug for the purpose of execution because the European Union opposes capital punishment.
Prisons are hard-pressed to find an alternative approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. An American company, which manufactured sodium thiopental, stopped making the drug in 2009 over controversy due to its use in executions.
Ohio plans to use a combination of a sedative called midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone in the execution of Ronald Phillips on Nov. 14.
Phillips, who sentenced to death for the rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in 1993, has asked that his execution be delayed. His attorneys want the chance to contest the state’s use of an untested drug combination.
Prisons have turned to state compounding pharmacies in search of lethal injection drugs, but these pharmacies are not subject to FDA regulations and do not required accreditation by the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board.
In 2012, a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy was responsible for a fungal meningitis outbreak that infected more than 700 people and killed 61.
If Phillips is not granted a stay, he will be the first man in Ohio to be executed by the drug combination.