The state of Missouri has engaged in a wide-ranging scheme involving code names and envelopes stuffed with cash to hide the fact that it paid a troubled pharmacy for the drugs it used to execute inmates, BuzzFeed News reports. It has become almost impossible for states to obtain execution drugs, as major pharmaceutical companies stopped making them or refused to provide them for capital punishment. Missouri faced a crisis in 2014, when the previous pharmacy it had been using stopped providing the state with drugs. Missouri found a new pharmacy and stockpiled the lethal injection drug pentobarbital, enabling it to set a record pace for executions, scheduling one a month for more than a year.
To hide the identity of the pharmacy, the state took extraordinary steps. It used a code name for the pharmacy in official documents. Only a handful of state employees know the real name. The state fought at least six lawsuits to stop death row inmates and the press from knowing the pharmacy’s identity. The state sends a high-ranking corrections officer to a clandestine meeting with a company representative, exchanging an envelope full of cash for vials of pentobarbital. Since 2014, Missouri has spent more than $135,000 in such drug deals. BuzzFeed News says the supplier was Foundation Care, a 14-year-old pharmacy based in the St. Louis suburbs that has been repeatedly found to engage in hazardous pharmaceutical procedures and whose cofounder has been been accused of regularly ordering prescription medications for himself without a doctor’s prescription. Last year, Foundation Care was sold to a subsidiary of health care giant Centene Corporation. Centene says that under its ownership, “Foundation Care has never supplied, and will never supply any pharmaceutical product to any state for the purpose of effectuating executions.” Two sources report that Missouri used Foundation Care’s drugs for 17 executions.