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Drugs used in Mo. executions bump into European Union law

Nitzan Brumer

Missouri’s plans to use the anesthetic propofol in executions may face new delays.

In May, Missouri announced it was switching to propofol after sodium thiopental, another drug commonly used in executions, became harder to acquire. But, Fresenius Kabi USA, one of propofol’s two domestic suppliers, announced last week it was instructing its distributors not to fill orders from departments of corrections in the United States.

The company says it objects to the use of the drug for reasons outside of its intended use. Kathleen Holmes is the state coordinator for Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, an anti-death penalty group. She applauds the drug company’s decision.

“The drug companies have repeatedly stood up and said, ‘No, you’re not using our drugs to kill somebody,’ – that’s not why they make the drugs in the first place," Holmes says. "So, I am thrilled.”

Fresenius Kabi is a subsidiary of a German company, and under European Union law, it is illegal for companies to export drugs that may be used in executions. Neither the Missouri Attorney General’s office nor the Missouri Department of Corrections could be reached for comment regarding the company’s decision.