Fresenius executes new policy on lethal use of propofol

In a move that will potentially complicate supplies of propofol, the German drugmaker Fresenius will no longer sell the anesthetic to the U.S. to be used in executions.

Fresenius sent a letter to healthcare providers recently saying that selling propofol for executions was inconsistent with its mission, Pharmalot reports.

A problem with supply of the drug in the U.S. started about two years ago when Teva Pharmaceuticals ($TEVA) closed a plant that made the drug after the FDA cited it in a warning letter. The company also started being sued for having offered propofol in oversized vials that were believed to encourage refills and which were then tied to hepatitis C infections.

Supply issues were exacerbated earlier this year when Hospira ($HSP), which also is a key supplier, had to stop production of the drug for a short while to deal with problems at one of the plants it has under remediation.

Fresenius actually boosted production of propofol about a year ago in the face of persistent shortages. This month, Fresenius cited sales of propofol in the face of shortages as one reason it was upping its forecast for the year. "Demand in the United States is expected to remain high supported by ongoing IV drug shortages, particularly of propofol. Supply constraints of a competitor for this anesthetic are now expected to last well into the fourth quarter."

It didn't say, however, how much of the drug was being bought by prisons to execute prisoners.

- read the Pharmalot story

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