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Drug used in lethal injection depleted, Nevada among states seeking new sources

RENO — Nevada officials are asking for access to the federal supply of one of three drugs necessary for a lethal injection.

The state doesn’t have sodium thiopental in stock and the state’s distributor is out after Hospira Inc. stopped manufacturing the drug, the Reno Gazette-Journal has reported.

Hospira decided to end production after trying to move the manufacturing to Italy. Italian officials objected because the drug is used in executions, the company said in a statement.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto joined 11 other attorney generals in asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for federal help in finding other sources of the drug, which could include sharing the federal supply.

“Many jurisdictions shortly will be unable to perform executions in cases where appeals have been exhausted and governors have signed death warrants,” the letter said.

Currently, 82 inmates are housed on death row at the state prison in Ely.

Michael Pescetta, an assistant federal public defender, said no executions are imminent unless someone were to end their appeals.

Of the 11 people executed in Nevada since 1976, 10 were executed after voluntarily dropping their appeals.

Kevin Ingram, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Corrections, said the guidelines for lethal injection executions are being reviewed and could be changed. Nothing is official, however.

Nevada’s injection formula includes the use of pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant, along with sodium thiopental, which causes unconsciousness and death in some cases, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

The most recent man to be executed in Nevada was Daryl Mack, convicted of killing two women. He ended his appeals and was given a lethal injection on April 26, 2006.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, says states facing a shortage or a lack of sodium thiopental will likely move to other anesthetics, such as pentobarbital. Oklahoma has already used it for one execution and Ohio is planning to use it.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lethal injection formula used in Kentucky in 2008. Nevada’s formula is similar.

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