Texas prison officials disclosed today that they are using a compounding pharmacy to obtain the drug used during executions. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, responding to a Freedom of Information request, released documents showing the purchase of eight vials of pentobarbital last month from a compounding pharmacy near Houston. Such pharmacies custom-make drugs, but aren't subject to federal scrutiny. (They came under the national spotlight last year when a meningitis outbreak was traced to a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts.) Texas' previous supply of the sedative expired last month, and prison officials had refused to say where they were getting their new supply.
Texas—which carries out far more executions than any other state—now has enough pentobarbital to carry out scheduled executions into next year, says a department spokesman. Pentobarbital has been used as the lone drug in lethal executions in Texas for more than a year. The disclosure came a day after a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of three death-row inmates who are challenging the state's use of the drug. The lawsuit, filed in Houston, contends that Texas' use of untested drugs during an execution violates the Constitution's protection against cruel and unusual punishment. (Read more Texas stories.)