California buys execution drug from Britain

7th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

California has bought a large batch of a drug used for executions from Britain after running out of supplies, officials said Tuesday, stressing that the shipment did not break any US rules.

The supply of 521 grams of sodium thiopental, made by British drug company Archimedes Pharma, was ordered before British authorities announced new export controls for the powerful anaesthetic late last month.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it had bought the drug through a distributor, not directly from the British company, which has denied exporting the chemical.

"They supply the drug to distributors; we worked worked with the distributor," said CDCR spokesman Terry Thornton, adding: "We worked in accordance with all state and federal laws to obtain this shipment."

For months now, several US states have struggled to find supplies of the powerful painkiller, the first and most crucial of three drugs used in lethal injections. The shortage has forced some states to put executions on hold.

Late last month British business minister Vince Cable announced new export controls on the drug, saying they would come into force "as soon as practicable."

"We had ordered it prior" to that announcement, said the CDCR spokeswoman, noting that "we have been actively seeking supplies of the drug for several months now" after the expiry date on its own stocks had run out on October 1.

Archimedes said in October that it did not have information on end users of purchasers of its products, but insisted it "neither exports the product to the US for any purpose nor is it aware of any exports of the product."

The CDCR spokeswoman said the batch of the drug had been approved by US Customs and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and was currently in transit "on the East Coast."

"We're waiting for the FDA to release the shipment to us," said Thornton, referring to the US Food and Drug Administration.

© 2010 AFP

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