American states are unable to execute their prisoners by lethal injection, thanks to an end to US production of sodium thiopental. Foreign health authorities prohibit selling sodium thiopental if it is to be used in lethal injections, and they will not buy drugs from pharma companies who sell sodium thiopental for that purpose. As a result, the sole US manufacturer, Hospira, has discontinued production of the drug, and no foreign manufacturer will sell to the US. Executions in California and Oklahoma have been delayed as a result of the shortage.
Now the US manufacturer, Hospira, says that it will stop production entirely after a bid to start making sodium thiopental in Italy stalled when the Rome government said it would only license manufacture if the drug was not used in executions.
Hospira said it intended to manufacture sodium thiopental to serve hospitals but "could not prevent the drug from being diverted to departments of corrections for use in capital punishment procedures".
"We cannot take the risk that we will be held liable by the Italian authorities if the product is diverted for use in capital punishment," the company said.