What to do when faced with a nationwide shortage of a lethal injection drug? In Arizona's case, take the slightly sketchy step of buying it from somewhere else. The state last night executed Jeffrey Landrigan for a 1989 murder in the state's first execution since 2007—using sodium thiopental it says it got from Britain. It's the first time a state has admitted it got the drug abroad, amid speculation that it actually came from a third-world country. The state's deputy attorney general calls such claims "not accurate," though he did not name the company that manufactured it.
Should other states follow Arizona's move, it could lead to a slew of challenges from inmates protesting the use of drugs not approved by federal inspectors for use in the US. The shortage began this spring, when Hospira, an Illinois company that is the sole US manufacturer of sodium thiopental, said it had unspecified problems with its raw-material suppliers. The limited supply is affecting executions in Kentucky, California, and Oklahoma. New batches will be available in January at the earliest. In the meantime, there are no FDA-approved overseas manufacturers of the drug, notes the AP. (Read more sodium thiopental stories.)