ATLANTA — The state of Georgia plans to use a compounding pharmacy to obtain an execution drug for an inmate scheduled to die Monday, making it one of the first states to acknowledge using these pharmacies as execution drugs become increasingly difficult to get.
The Department of Corrections will get pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy for the execution of Warren Lee Hill, spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said in an e-mail Thursday.
The state’s supply of pentobarbital expired in March.It has become tough for states to get the drug because the manufacturer has said it doesn’t want it used in executions.
Compounding pharmacies custom-mix small batches of a drug for specific clients. They’ve come under scrutiny after a deadly meningitis outbreak was linked to contaminated injections made by a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy. The FDA considers compounding pharmacy products unapproved drugs and does not verify their safety or effectiveness.
It’s hard to tell how many states have used or are planning to use compounding pharmacies for execution drugs because states frequently resist disclosing the source of the drugs, death penalty experts said.
South Dakota has confirmed that it used compounded pentobarbital in an October execution. A handful of other states that had acknowledged execution drug shortages have begun scheduling executions months into the future, suggesting they’ve found a stable supply, said Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.
Georgia Department of Corrections e-mails obtained through an open records request make it clear that the state is using a compounding pharmacy. The names of the sender and recipient of the e-mails are redacted, but it is clear from an e-mail signature that one is a corrections employee and the other appears to be a doctor.
Hill attorney Brian Kammer said the use of a compounding pharmacy raises concerns.
“I think it’s a violation of the Hippocratic Oath on the part of whatever physician prescribes it,” Kammer said.
Kammer declined to say whether he planned to file a challenge to Hill’s execution based on the use of a compounding pharmacy. He’s already filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to consider new expert statements he submitted in Hill’s case.
The high court has yet to weigh in.
Hill was sentenced to death for the 1990 beating death of fellow inmate Joseph Handspike. Hill bludgeoned Handspike with a nail-studded board while his victim slept, authorities said. At the time, Hill was already serving a life sentence for the 1986 slaying of his girlfriend, Myra Wright, who was shot 11 times.
His lawyers have long said he is mentally disabled and therefore shouldn’t be executed because the execution of mentally disabled offenders is prohibited by state law and a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision.