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 VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs