An Oklahoma compounding pharmacy has supplied Missouri with the drug it's used three times to execute inmates, despite the fact that the pharmacy isn't licensed here.
Now the Apothecary Shoppe is attempting to become licensed in Missouri.
According to records obtained by St. Louis Public Radio, the Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy received a letter from the Apothecary Shoppe on Jan. 13, when the pharmacy said it was planning on registering in both Missouri and Texas.
Last summer, the Apothecary Shoppe also offered to supply the execution drug to Louisiana. The pharmacy is not licensed there as well.
Compounding pharmacies are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, like drug manufacturers are. Instead, that responsibility is left to individual state boards of pharmacy. The drugs made by compounding pharmacies also have a significantly higher failure rate than those of manufactured drugs.
The pharmacy supplying Missouri with its execution drug has been criticized for several reasons: 1) for supplying to a state where it isn't licensed; 2) for making a drug that is essentially a copy of a manufactured drug (not allowed for compounding pharmacies); and 3) for relying on a controversial testing laboratory to verify the drug's effectiveness.
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri said it would be a "positive step" for the Apothecary Shoppe to become licensed in Missouri.
"It would be an improvement from the legally questionable procedure of handing over a controlled substance to an individual who is not the patient or a medical professional to secretly courier the drug into Missouri," legal director Tony Rothert said. "It might allow the public to finally learn whether we can trust the quality of the drugs Missouri is using."
Missouri has pointed to an anonymous testing lab's reports to argue that the drug is potent and pure. The lab is Analytical Research Laboratories in Oklahoma City, OK; it had approved a batch of steroids for commercial use that ended up killing dozens in 2012. The deaths were an impetus behind recent congressional action on the regulatory practices for compounding pharmacies.
The Apothecary Shoppe has been cited in the past as well: one disciplinary action in 2006 and several warnings from the Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy.
The warnings are for a few different deficiencies, one of which is creating a drug that is essentially a copy of an FDA-approved drug.
The board took disciplinary action in 2006, finding head pharmacist and owner Deril Lees guilty of increasing the quantity of drugs dispensed. According to the Board of Pharmacy, "The staff pharmacists were also instructed to shred the original prescriptions."
In court filings over the past few months, Missouri has argued that the identity of the supplier must be kept secret. The Department of Corrections changed the protocol to hide the identity, a move Gov. Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster both supported.
The state has argued that if the Apothecary Shoppe's identity got out, the pharmacy wouldn't want to supply for executions anymore. The Apothecary Shoppe did not respond to a request for comment on whether or not they intend to continue.
Missouri's next execution is scheduled for Feb. 26.
Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter: @csmcdaniel