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Propofol manufacturer objects to drug's use in lethal injections

Thursday, September 27, 2012 | 3:19 p.m. CDT; updated 6:46 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 27, 2012

COLUMBIA — The manufacturer of the anesthetic blamed for Michael Jackson's death said Thursday it won't sell the drug for use in executions, a setback for Missouri and other states looking for an alternative after other drug makers also objected to their products' use in lethal injections.

Drug maker Fresenius Kabi USA, a German company with U.S. offices based in Schaumburg, Ill., said it is the only remaining domestic supplier of propofol. Earlier this year, Missouri adopted a new single-drug execution method that would make it the first state to use propofol as an execution drug.

Fresenius Kabi spokesman Matt Kuhn confirmed to The Associated Press that the company told its distributors in late August that such usage contradicts the drug's medical purpose and is "inconsistent" with the company's mission. It's also forbidden under European Union laws to export drugs that could be used in executions.

"Fresenius Kabi objects to the use of its products in any manner that is not in full accordance with the medical indications for which they have been approved by health authorities," a company statement reads. "Consequently, the company does not accept orders for propofol from any departments of correction in the United States. Nor will it do so."

Most of the 33 states with the death penalty had long used sodium thiopental as the first of a three-drug combination administered during lethal injections. But sodium thiopental became unavailable when its European supplier acknowledged pressure from death penalty opponents and stopped selling it for executions.

Supplies mostly ran out or expired, forcing states to consider alternatives. Most states have retained the three-drug method but turned to pentobarbital, a barbiturate used to treat anxiety and convulsive disorders such as epilepsy, as a replacement for sodium thiopental. But pentobarbital supplies also have shrunk after its manufacturer said it would try to prevent its use in executions.

Officials with the Missouri Attorney General's office and Department of Corrections didn't immediately respond Thursday to requests seeking comment about the propofol maker's stance. In August, the Missouri Supreme Court declined Attorney General Chris Koster's request to set execution dates for six death-row inmates, calling it "premature" pending the uncertainty over propofol's availability.


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