By week's end, it will become even more difficult for the US to get its hands on a key drug used in lethal injections. Early this year, an Illinois firm stopped making thiopental. Now, the European Union is poised to ban the export of the drug without a permit, Der Spiegel reports. The scarcity of the anesthetic has already delayed US executions; replacing it with another drug would require a complex approval process.
The US has been scrambling to find a foreign source for the drug, but it hasn't been easy. When former commerce secretary Gary Locke sought help from Germany, its vice chancellor "noted the request, and declined," and went so far as to write to German pharmaceutical companies to ask that they not oblige any requests for the drug. This month, the CEO of a Swiss company that manufactures thiopental wrote to top Nebraska officials, slamming the state for allegedly using a middleman to obtain it. The CEO said he was against thiopental's use in lethal injections. Companies in India and Denmark, meanwhile, have also stopped selling the drug for use in executions. (Read more European Union stories.)