The American Pharmacists Association today adopted a policy that discourages its members from providing death-penalty drugs. The new guidelines could make it tough for death penalty states, like Texas, that have been looking at made-to-order execution drugs from compounding pharmacies as the answer to a nationwide shortage of execution drugs. The association's governing body approved the policy at a meeting in San Diego. The group lacks the legal authority to bar compounding pharmacies from selling execution drugs. But its policies set ethical standards followed by pharmacists, just as the American Medical Association does for doctors.
Prison departments have had to buy made-to-order execution drugs from compounding pharmacies in recent years, because the pharmaceutical companies they used to buy their drugs from now refuse to sell them for use in lethal injections after coming under pressure from death-penalty opponents. But now the compounded version is also difficult to come by, with most pharmacists reluctant to expose themselves to possible harassment by death-penalty opponents. Texas' prison agency scrambled this month to find a supplier, and Georgia was put off when prison authorities questioned the appearance of the compounded pentobarbital they planned to use. Others states are turning to alternative methods, with Tennessee approving the electric chair and Utah the firing squad when drugs can't be obtained. (Read more death penalty stories.)