News / Europe

German Firm Blocked Shipments to US After Drug Sent for Executions

FILE - A bottle of Propofol, the nation's most popular anesthetic, is shown at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California.
FILE - A bottle of Propofol, the nation's most popular anesthetic, is shown at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California.
Reuters
A German manufacturer confirmed on Thursday that it took the extraordinary step of suspending shipments of a widely used drug to a U.S. distributor this year after 20 vials were mistakenly sent to the state of Missouri to be used in executions.
 
Drugmaker Fresenius Kabi said shipments of the anesthetic propofol were halted to a Louisiana distributor for 4 1/2 months through mid-March because the company feared the European Union would ban export of the drug altogether if it was used in executions.
 
“We felt it was important to make sure it was restricted to the health care professionals,” said Geoffrey Fenton, a U.S. spokesman for the firm.
 
Propofol, which is mostly made in Europe, is administered about 50 million times a year in the United States during various surgical procedures, according to the manufacturer.
 
The Death Penalty Information Center said Missouri had been expected to become the first U.S. state to use the drug in an execution scheduled for October 23.
 
The death penalty is banned in the European Union, and the 28-country bloc, of which Germany is a part, bans the export of drugs for use in executions.
 
Fresenius Kabi said it had stopped shipments to Louisiana distributor Morris & Dickson LLC from November 1, 2012 to mid-March, 2013 after the U.S. firm inadvertently sent a carton containing 20 vials to Missouri's department of corrections.
 
The German company confirmed it had suspended the shipments a day after Missouri announced that it would return the drugs to the distributor. Missouri is taking the unusual step some 11 months after the distributor frantically pleaded for the return of the vials, according to emails recently made public.
 
A leading death penalty expert, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said he had never heard of a drug firm suspending shipments to a distributor over their possible use in U.S. executions.
 
The move shows how U.S. states and suppliers of drugs are coming under strong pressure from big pharmaceutical companies, especially in Europe, not to use supplies in executions.
 
The campaign against the death penalty has forced death-penalty states to change the drugs they use in lethal injections, find new supplies of existing drugs, or buy drugs from lightly regulated compounding pharmacies.
 
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections on October 4 in an attempt to obtain information about the state's supply of propofol.
 
According to one of the documents posted on the ACLU's website the distributor mistakenly sent propofol to the department of corrections on September 26 or 27, 2012.
 
A salesperson for the distributor spent the “entire day” on November 1 at the state prison in Bonne Terre, Missouri, attempting in vain to retrieve the propofol, according to an email sent to George Lombardi, director of the department of corrections, from Dale Kelley, vice president of purchasing at Morris & Dickson.
 
In the email, Kelley said Fresenius Kabi had suspended distribution of propofol to Morris & Dickson, a move that would “cause irreparable harm to the medical community which we serve.”
 
The email said the suspension would affect thousands of patients in need of the anesthetic at more than 600 hospitals in the Midwest and southern United States.
 
“Please - Please - Please HELP ...this system failure - a mistake - 1 carton of 20 vials - is going to affect thousands of Americans,” he wrote.
 
The salesperson was told that approval to give the drug back had to come from Lombardi or Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, according to the email from Kelley to Lombardi.
 
The suspension did not end up restricting supply of propofol in the United States because Fresenius Kabi delivered the drug directly to hospitals rather to the distributor, Fenton said.
 
An audit was conducted of Morris & Dickson to ensure the sale of the drug to prisons would not happen again and then supplies to the distributor were resumed, he said.
 
Fresenius Kabi sells propofol to a total of 14 U.S. distributors, which agree not to sell the drug to jails and prisons, Fenton said.
 
Missouri state officials did not respond to requests to comment about the incident.
 
The state had been expected to use propofol for the execution of convicted murderer Allen Nicklasson scheduled for October 23, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More