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Following Controversy, Missouri Selects New Execution Drug

California Department of Corrections
Lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison.

On Tuesday, the Missouri Department of Corrections announced that it had selected a new drug for upcoming executions: pentobarbital.

The change comes following criticism of the questionable methods Missouri had obtained the drug it had previously planned to use, as well as concern that its use could harm hospitals throughout the U.S. The state had planned to use a common anesthetic named propofol, which has never been used to carry out an execution.

All of the drug's manufacturers objected to this usage, and required suppliers to not sell propofol to departments of correction. As a result, Missouri resorted to buying the drug from a company that was not authorized by the drug's manufacturer to sell propofol.

Following reports on how Missouri obtained the drug, as well as outcry from manufacturers who warned using propofol could harm the supply for hospitals, Missouri relented. Gov. Jay Nixon instructed the Department of Corrections to select a new drug.

The new drug is pentobarbital, which has been used for executions in 13 states. Pentobarbital's manufacturers object to Missouri's plan, and have attempted to thwart states from getting their hands on the drug.

Missouri will instead turn to a compounding pharmacy to make the drug. Compounding pharmacies have been criticized for this practice, since they don't face the same scrutiny and approval process from the FDA, like drug manufacturers do.

The Department of Corrections refused a request by St. Louis Public Radio to name the compounding pharmacy that the state would be using.

The next execution for Missouri is scheduled for Nov. 20.

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel 

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