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States moving quickly to switch execution drug

Apr 21, 2011 5:47:00 PM - thestate.com
Nearly two-thirds of the 16 states with active death chambers are switching to an alternative sedative for execution - even as the drug's manufacturer argues against its use in capital punishment and some European countries push export bans for such drugs.

Ten states have now switched to pentobarbital or are considering a switch as part of their three-drug methods, according to a survey of all death penalty states by The Associated Press. Among those joining the states that previously switched are Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.

South Carolina also is considering using the drug as it prepares for an execution next month.

At issue is a shortage of sodium thiopental, a sedative that states used for more than three decades until its only U.S. manufacturer stopped making it in 2009 and then dropped plans to resume production earlier this year.

The shortage forced several states to scramble to find new supplies and executions were temporarily delayed in Arizona, California, Georgia and Oklahoma. States swapped supplies of sodium thiopental or looked overseas, to England, India and even Pakistan.