Texas buys execution drugs from tainted pharmacy

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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice obtains its lethal injection drugs “from a pharmacy that regulators have repeatedly cited for dangerous practices,” according to a report by BuzzFeed News.

Like other death penalty states, Texas passed a law that keeps the source of its lethal injection drugs secret, but reporter Chris McDaniel obtained documents which he says reveal that Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy in Houston was one source. “Its license has been on probation since November 2016, when the Texas State Board of Pharmacy found that it had compounded the wrong drug for three children, sending one to the emergency room, and forged quality control documents,” McDaniel reports.

The report is especially troubling in light of the fact that five of the last 11 inmates executed in Texas this year complained of a burning sensation after the lethal injection began.

Since 2012, Texas has used the single drug pentobarbital in its executions. As is the case in other death penalty states, it has been forced to use compounding pharmacies for the drug because pharmaceutical companies prohibit the use of their drugs in executions.

“It’s unclear how the state selected Greenpark. Of the state’s nearly 200 pharmacies that perform this sort of high-risk compounding, Greenpark is one of only eight that currently have their licenses on probation or revoked,” McDaniel says. He notes that documents obtained by BuzzFeed indicate that, “In inspections by state regulators, Greenpark has been cited for 48 violations over the past eight years.” 

According to McDaniel, Greenpark submitted a declaration under a pseudonym in June declaring that it was supplying the state with lethal injection drugs on the condition that its identity not be revealed.

“States have used secrecy to conceal a broad range of misconduct. Secrecy is a bad practice, bad policy, and bad government. And it continues to erode public confidence in whether states can be trusted to carry out capital punishment,” Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham said in a statement after Buzzfeed published its story. Coincidentally, DPIC released an exhaustive report a week before Buzzfeed’s story, “Behind the Curtain: Secrecy and the Death Penalty in the United States,” detailing the serious ethical and constitutional questions raised by state secrecy laws.

“Secrecy increases the risk of problems. It results in more botched and potentially problematic executions. Prisoners have a right to information about the execution process so that they can raise legitimate challenges to execution methods that may subject them to excruciating pain. Without this information, prisoners cannot meet the high burden of proof the courts have set out for challenging executions,” DPIC says in the report.

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