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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid