California corrections officials imported a large quantity of the key drug used in lethal-injection executions and are awaiting approval of the British-made product by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, reports the Los Angeles Times. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation last month paid a British distributor $36,415 for 521 grams of sodium thiopental made by Archimedes Pharma, said a department spokeswoman. That stock of the first drug used in a three-injection sequence would be sufficient to put to death about 90 condemned prisoners.
A nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental has delayed executions in several states. California’s last few grams of the drug expired in September, complicating state efforts to resume executions after a five-year hiatus. The acquisitions were reported to U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose at the time they were made, but the source of the drug was disclosed only after the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed a public records request. Sodium thiopental, which is no longer available from the sole U.S. manufacturer, is a powerful barbiturate used to anesthetize condemned prisoners in lethal injection executions.