Execution Drug Switch Could Endanger Hospital Anesthetic Supply

The plan to use a common anesthetic in an execution next month has sparked concern that exports of the drug could be curtailed, threatening the supply to hospitals and clinics across the U.S.


ST. LOUIS (September 27, 2013)—A plan to use the common anesthetic propofol next month in an execution in Missouri is raising concerns that the anti-death penalty European Union could limit export of the drug, endangering the supply to thousands of hospitals and clinics across the U.S.

Convicted killer Allen Nicklasson is scheduled to die Oct. 23 in the what would be the first execution in which propofol was used.

Fifty million vials of propofol are administered annually in the U.S. during surgery and other procedures requiring anesthetic and about 85 percent of the U.S. supply is made in Europe by the German company Fresenius Kabi.

But the EU prohibits trade in goods that could be used for executions and is reviewing whether to subject propofol to controls that could slow export to the U.S.

Fresenius Kabi has launched a website expressing its concerns.

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