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US state sending back some propofol to distributor

October 9, 2013

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri said Wednesday it will return a shipment of the execution drug propofol to the distributor, nearly a year after the company’s urgent request for the anesthetic to be sent back.

The state Department of Corrections said in a news release that it has remaining supply of propofol, but the release doesn’t clarify if there is enough for the two executions scheduled for Oct. 23 and on Nov. 20. Phone and email messages left with corrections department spokespeople were not returned.

The announcement came one day after the corrections department responded to an open records request from the American Civil Liberties Union. Documents provided to the ACLU included an email dated Nov. 2 from Dale Kelley, an executive with the pharmaceutical distributor Morris & Dickson Co. of Louisiana to corrections director George Lombardi.

The message said a “system failure” led Morris & Dickson to send propofol to the corrections department in violation of the company’s agreement with the drug’s manufacturer, Germany-based Fresenius Kabi. Because of the mistake, the letter said, Morris & Dickson was suspended from distributing the anesthetic.

Propofol is far and away the most popular anesthetic used at U.S. hospitals and clinics.

“Please — Please — Please HELP ... this system failure — a mistake — 1 carton of 20 vials — is going to affect thousands of Americans,” Kelley wrote.

Phone messages left with Morris & Dickson were not returned.

Missouri is the first state to announce plans to use propofol as an execution drug. The move has stirred concern because the anti-death penalty European Union could limit the export of the anesthetic, potentially creating a shortage. Nearly 90 percent of the U.S. supply comes from Europe.

The news release from the corrections department said the remaining supply was produced by a domestic manufacturer.

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