As Maryland officials attempt to develop a lethal injection protocol that is acceptable to the courts, they have run into an unexpected roadblock – Globalization. Pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs used in executions are for the most part multi-national entities, either headquartered in Europe or with large business interests in that region. Capital punishment has been banished in Europe. Extraditing suspects who might face the death penalty is forbidden, and exporting materials that might be used for executions has now come under intense scrutiny.
Sodium thiopental, the anesthetic Maryland (and all other executing states) had been using as the first drug in its three-drug protocol, was produced by Hospira, at a factory in Italy. Now, because of controversy over its use in executions, Hospira will no longer make the drug at all. A generic version of sodium thiopental is manufactured by a subsidiary of Swiss-based Novartis, but that company has announced it will take all steps necessary to prevent its export to the US. An alternative to sodium thiopental, pentobarbital, which has been used in Oklahoma and may soon be used in Ohio, is made by a company called Lundbeck, based in Denmark. That company has already gone on record objecting to the use of their drug in executions, and it may only be a matter of time before Lundbeck takes steps to ensure that their drug doesn’t wind up in US execution chambers.