Pharmacies reject involvement in US executions

October 8, 2013

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Pharmacies in the US are demanding that executioners in Texas not use their drugs to carry out lethal injections, claiming that the state “misrepresented” their plans for the drugs, or that they were completely unaware of the intended use.

Texas is one of a number of states – including Pennsylvania, Colorado and South Dakota – which has attempted to secure the execution drug pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies, after major pharmaceutical companies took steps to block the use of their products in capital punishment.

However, it has emerged that both of the pharmacies from which Texas procured supplies of ‘compounded’ (i.e. made-to-order) pentobarbital have either blocked the order or are demanding the return of the drugs.

One of the suppliers, Pharmacy Innovations, which is headquartered in Jamestown, NY, was according to court documents, “completely unaware that the drugs … were purchased with the intent to use them for lethal injections,” and once informed, “cancelled the order before it had been filled.”  The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) had attempted to purchase under the cover name of the Huntsville Unit Hospital – even though the hospital has not existed since 1983.

The owner of the other supplier, the Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy, wrote this weekend to the TDCJ to “demand that TDCJ immediately return the vials of compounded pentobarbital,” complaining that “the State of Texas misrepresented this fact [that the purchase would remain private] because my name and the name of my pharmacy are posted all over the internet.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of legal charity Reprieve’s Death Penalty team said: “This shows that responsible pharmacies, like responsible drugs companies, do not want to be part of the death penalty system.  Texas’ underhand behaviour – trying to order the drugs through a non-existent hospital to mask their intended use – should come as a warning to pharmacies everywhere to be on their guard.  Pharmacists are in the business of healing, not killing – it is high time all those US states desperately seeking new sources of execution drugs realised that.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 /

2. The letter to TDCJ from Woodlands Pharmacy and the court documents concerning Pharmacy Innovations are available on Reprieve’s website.

3. Among the states which are attempting to use drugs from compounding pharmacies to execute are:

      Pennsylvania – see

Patriot News, November 5, 2012

      Colorado – see

Denver Post, March 12, 2013

      South Dakota – see

Reprieve’s website, October 17, 2012

4. Further information on Pharmacy Innovations can be found here: