Sodium thiopental is a critical component of the three-drug cocktail that makes up the lethal injection procedure for most executions in this country. It's the drug that makes the person lose consciousness, before the other two drugs first cause paralysis and then stop the heart. (We've posted about the procedure in detail here.)
Drug Manufacturer Hospira, Inc. is Out of Product
Sodium Thiopental isn't made by many manufacturers -- in fact, there is only one company in the United States that makes the drug, Hospira Inc. of Lake Forest, Illinois. Hospira doesn't have any more sodium thiopental to provide: the company is reporting that it cannot ship out any more of its product until January 2011.
Why? Hospira can't make the drug until its own suppliers can ship Hospira the materials needed to make it. That's not going to happen until January at the earliest. (Sidenote: it's really eerie to know that Hospira makes this drug of death when you check out their friendly, health-oriented web page -- no wonder there's reports that Hospira isn't at all happy that its product is being used in killing people.)
Different States Responding Differently to the Shortage
California has decided that it will reschedule all California executions set after September 30, 2010, because of the sodium thiopental shortage.
Texas has enough on hand, and the shortage isn't impacting the Texas Execution Schedule, which has three executions set before the end of the year. Surprise.
California's Scheduled Execution of Albert Greenwood Brown on Thursday Has Been Stopped
And, California's attempt to use the single-drug method in the execution of Albert Greenwood Brown this Thursday - the first execution to occur in California in five years? Not happening.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the State of California, and ordered the Albert Greenwood Brown case returned to the lower court judge for procedural errors.
The federal appellate court's order came down just after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had halted the Brown Execution for one day, apparently to coincide with the state Attorney General of California announcement that the Sodium Thiopental shortage would halt all the state's recently scheduled executions until sometime in 2011.
When the drug is back on the market, wonder if California will have the money to pay for it?