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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

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