The capital punishment system faces a serious obstacle: the only US producer of an anesthetic used in lethal injection has decided to stop making it, the Wall Street Journal reports. Thiopental sodium is made exclusively by Hospira, an Illinois company. It had already suspended production in 2009 because of manufacturing problems but planned to resume at a plant in Italy. Those plans fell through when the Italian government pressured the company to ensure that its product was not used in executions.
A substitute exists—pentobarbitol, a drug used to euthanize animals—but any change will have to be approved by state courts. In the meantime, many states are already out of thiopental, meaning that executions will likely have to be put on hold until the chemical quandary can be sorted out.