A federal judge temporarily blocked an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy from selling a
drug to the Missouri Department of Corrections for use in an upcoming
The temporary restraining
order was issued in a lawsuit filed a day earlier in US District Court by
Missouri death row inmate Michael Taylor. His attorneys allege that the
department contracts with The Apothecary Shoppe to provide the drug set to be
used in Taylor's lethal injection.
The lawsuit argued that
several recent executions involving the drug, compounded pentobarbital,
indicate it will likely cause Taylor "severe, unnecessary, lingering and
ultimately inhumane pain".
The state has not revealed
the name of the compounding pharmacy supplying the drug, and The Apothecary
Shoppe previously declined to confirm or deny that it was the source of a drug
used in an earlier Missouri execution.
Taylor, 47, pleaded guilty
in the 1989 abduction, rape and stabbing death of a 15-year-old Kansas City
A pharmacy spokeswoman did
not return a telephone call seeking comment. Phone and e-mail
messages were also left with the Missouri Department of Corrections.
One of Taylor's attorneys,
Matthew Hellman of the Washington, DC, law firm Jenner & Block, said the
lawsuit focuses attention on the drug used in Missouri's lethal injections and
the laws regarding compounding.
"This is not an
acceptable option," Hellman said.
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Used for execution
officials turned to The Apothecary Shoppe to supply compounded pentobarbital
after manufacturers of the drug refused to provide it for lethal injections,
according to the lawsuit.
In January 2012, a Danish
company that had produced pentobarbital under the trade name Nembutal sold the
exclusive rights to the drug to an American company, Akorn Inc., on the
condition that Akorn not sell the drug for use in executions.
do not want medication to be used for executions," Hellman said.
Taylor's lawsuit questions
whether the pharmacy can legally produce and deliver compounded pentobarbital.
It says the pharmacy is not registered as a drug manufacturer with the Food
& Drug Administration and alleges it violates federal law each time it
delivers the drug across state lines to Missouri corrections officials.
Along with asking for a
temporary restraining order, the lawsuit seeks an injunction barring the
pharmacy from delivering "this unidentified, unregulated, untested and
unsafe pharmaceutical product." Hellman declined to say whether The
Apothecary Shoppe also sells compounded pentobarbital to states other than
Several recent executions
that involved compounded pentobarbital indicate use of the drug will subject
Taylor to "inhumane pain", the lawsuit says.
One such execution was that
of Oklahoma death row inmate Michael Lee Wilson, 38. Within 20 seconds of receiving
the lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary Wilson said:
"I feel my whole body burning." The lawsuit alleges the statement
describes "a sensation consistent with receipt of contaminated
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The lawsuit also sites an execution in which South Dakota death row inmate Eric Robert,
50, cleared his throat, gasped for air and then snored after receiving the
lethal injection. His skin turned a purplish hue and his heart continued to
beat for 10 minutes after he stopped breathing. It took 20 minutes for
authorities to finally declare Robert dead.
"These events are
consistent with receipt of a contaminated or sub-potent compounded drug,"
the lawsuit says.
Use of the same drug in
Taylor's execution could result in a similar reaction, Hellman said.
"It is extremely
disturbing," he said.
Corrections Department Director George Lombardi told a legislative panel that
the agency pays for the drug to be independently tested to make sure it works
and is sterile. He also said the agency had found no substantial issues in a
background check of its current supplier.
Lombardi did not release
the name of the pharmacy that provides the drug, saying Missouri could not
carry out lethal injections if that information were released. He said the
state pays $8,000 in cash to the pharmacy for the drug.
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