When Ohio said last week it is abandoning a two-drug execution protocol that which led to a botched execution last year, the state said it would reintroduce two drugs previously used in executions, pentobarbital and sodium thiopental, reports the Marshall Project. Pentobarbital is an easy-to-get anesthetic that Texas and other states have used in dozens of lethal injections. Compounding pharmacies might also be making sodium thiopental, but nobody knows for sure because they are not subject to federal oversight.
If Ohio has found sodium thiopental, known to be difficult to obtain, it raises the possibility that the state has found an unorthodox method of procurement, such as paying unregulated compounding pharmacies in cash. Last year, Ohio enacted one of the nation’s strongest measures to protect pharmacies who provide drugs for lethal injections from having their names divulged in court. Anesthesiologists and lawyers don’t know where the state is getting sodium thiopental, because there is no known U.S. manufacturer.