South Dakota carries out execution using contaminated compounded drugs

October 17, 2012

Image of South Dakota US State Flag

A prisoner who died this week in a potentially botched lethal injection was killed using drugs from a compounding pharmacy, it has emerged.

Eric Robert was executed in South Dakota on 15 October using a single dose of the barbiturate pentobarbital, which had been made to order by a compounding pharmacy. 

The status of such pharmacies has been in the spotlight in recent weeks after one was linked to an outbreak of meningitis.

Mr Robert reportedly took 20 minutes to die and opened his eyes during the process, after which they remained open until the end.

A certificate of analysis of the pentobarbital which was used in the execution found that it was contaminated with fungus.

Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s lethal injection project said: “The use of drugs from compounding pharmacies is already risky, as US authorities have themselves stated. But to use contaminated drugs to carry out executions is to invite disaster. Without knowing where the drugs have come from, what their quality is, or even what kind of drugs are being injected, there can be no assurances that the drugs will work – and the prisoner risks dying in agony.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082 /

2. The Associated Press’ report of Mr Robert’s death can be found here: