It's really, really difficult for states to obtain death-penalty drugs these days. For starters, there are the international sanctions: In 2011, the European Union banned the sale of lethal-injection drugs to the United States. And no U.S. drug manufacturer makes them. (Apparently, it's bad for public relations.)
Facing shortages, some death-penalty states have turned to compounding pharmacies, which can manufacture small batches of the hard-to-obtain drugs to order. These pharmacies are often kept secret to shield them from public backlash, but the confidentiality also shields them from public oversight. Recent botched lethal injections have raised questions as to whether the drugs emerging from these pharmacies are effective.
But soon, these (much-criticized) sources of death-penalty drugs may disappear as well. The International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, an industry trade group, is advising its member organizations to get out of the business all together.
"IACP discourages its members from participating in the preparation, dispensing, or distribution of compounded medications for use in legally authorized executions," the IACP said in a statement released Tuesday. If pharmacies listen to this directive, it's possible the already tiny stockpile of execution drugs in the United States will disappear. Texas, the state with the highest number of executions, is already teetering on lethal-injection exhaustion. According to The Wall Street Journal, the state has just one remaining dose of pentobarbital (which was commonly used in executions before the market dried up), and no clear plan of what to do once it's gone.