Death penalty executions and elective surgeries are both seeing delays due to a shortage of anesthesia drugs. In Kentucky, with two executions pending, officials have only enough sodium thiopental (pentothal) for one, reports USA Today. The state has reached out to others, only to find that they too are in short supply.
Hospitals, doctors and patients are feeling the pain via postponement of elective surgeries. Sodium thiopental maker Hospira cites manufacturing problems for the scarcity and projects greater availability in early 2011. The company received an FDA warning letter in April citing cGMP violations at its Clayton, NC, facility, where it makes propofol and other drugs. And its second-half financial results cite charges associated with the company's warning letter response.
The sodium thiopental shortage follows a scarcity of Propofol, challenging anesthesiologists as well as penal officials. Veterinarians too are affected, with many having difficulty finding PropoFlo and Rapinovet--brand-name Propofol for use in animals. A trade reports says they have not been manufactured for most of 2010.
Generics-maker Teva recently announced its intent to exit the Propofol business, saying the drug is difficult to make and barely profitable, as we reported.