Illinois drug manufacturer asks Missouri to return supply of propofol

Thursday, October 10, 2013 | 6:00 p.m. CDT; updated 3:09 p.m. CST, Saturday, February 22, 2014

COLUMBIA — An Illinois drug manufacturer is asking the Missouri Department of Corrections and Gov. Jay Nixon to return vials of propofol purchased through an "unauthorized distributor." The request comes after the state said it returned a separate shipment of the drug to a German manufacturer.

Corrections Department records released Tuesday indicate the department purchased the vials of the common anesthetic this summer from a pharmaceutical distributor, Mercer Medical, which had propofol that had originated from Hospira Inc., the Lake Forest, Ill., manufacturer.

On Thursday, Hospira spokesman Dan Rosenberg said the company had been provided information that suggested Missouri had received a supply of Hospira propofol from an "unauthorized distributor." He said Hospira has reached out to state agencies, requesting they return the propofol and not use it in an execution.

“We have written the Missouri Department of Corrections and have notified the governor’s office, requesting that the state not use this product for lethal injection and return it to us,” Rosenberg said in an email.

Missouri changed its execution procedure to use propofol after it could not acquire its traditional three-drug cocktail for lethal injections.

Neither the Corrections Department nor the governor’s office immediately returned phone messages Thursday.

The Corrections Department said Wednesday that it had returned an undisclosed amount of the drug to a separate distributor, Morris & Dickson, nearly a year after it had told the department that the propofol vials were sold to them by mistake. The manufacturer of these returned vials was a German-based company, and the European Union has threatened restrictions on the import of the drug if it is used in an execution.

“The remainder of the department's propofol inventory was produced by a domestic manufacturer,” a Corrections Department news release said Wednesday.

Controversy has swirled around the state’s planned use of the drug for the scheduled execution of Allen Nicklasson on Oct. 23.

Nicklasson’s attorney filed a motion with the Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday for a stay of execution, citing concerns over the use of propofol in the execution. The drug has never been used for a state execution by lethal injection.

The Missouri Society of Anesthesiologists has argued that restrictions on the drug would cause shortages of an anesthetic that is used in more than 90 percent of surgeries.

Supervising editor is Gary Castor.

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