Earlier this month, Hospira, the sole FDA-approved U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, decided to pull the proverbial plug on production of that key lethal injection drug according to the Huffington Post. There were already many complications with the supply of the drug, including:
- An existing shortage of the drug due to “problems with [Hospira’s] raw-material suppliers”;
- A corporate decision to shift production of the drug from the USA to Hospira’s Italy factory regarded as the “only plant capable of manufacturing sodium thiopental”; and
- The Italian government’s condition that the drug cannot be produced in Italy if it would be used to put inmates to death.
This third factor apparently convinced Hospira to close the coffin on sodium thiopental production.
This decision by Hospira, a supplier to many states who purchase sodium thiopental to kill criminals, is having a ripple effect in those states. Texas only has enough supply to complete two of the four scheduled executions between now and July. In addition, the current supply problems have “delayed or disrupted executions in Arizona, California, Kentucky, Ohio and Oklahoma.” Some of these states had already switched to a British supplier only to have that source deep-sixed by a November export ban by the British government.
It’s a good case study that demonstrates the tragedy of over-dependence on a single specification and a sole source supplier: one little decision can stop the pulse of a supply chain.