DEA confiscates Georgia's execution drug

The Drug Enforcement Administration has seized Georgia's supply of sodium thiopental, a substance used in lethal injections, amid questions over how it was imported into the state.

Sodium thiopental is one of three drugs administered to inmates during executions. However, Hospira, the only U.S. manufacturer of the drug, stopped production in January, citing export regulations in Italy and reiterating it "never condoned" the use of the product for capital punishment. The drug has been scarce for about a year because of manufacturing problems.

"DEA did take control of the controlled substances today," DEA spokesman Chuvalo Truesdell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "There were questions about the way the drugs were imported over here."

The seizure comes after an attorney representing a death row inmate wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder saying the Georgia Department of Corrections circumvented federal law in trying to quickly secure the scarce drug for executions. The Southern Center for Human Rights also has brought suit against the state on behalf of an inmate Emanuel Hammond, who has since been executed, after discovering that officials had purchased thiopental from Dream Pharma, "an unlicensed company operating from a back room within Elgone Driving School in London, England," AHN reports. The boxes of the drug sold by Dream are labeled with the name Link Pharmaceuticals, the group maintains. Link was acquired by another company in 2006, which raises questions if the products sold in 2010 "are real and/or expired."

Georgia Department of Corrections officials had sought DEA assistance in response to questions about how the drug was imported. "We're working with them to make sure we're in compliance in the way we handle controlled substances," spokeswoman Peggy Chapman said, as quoted by Reuters.

- get more from the AJC
- check out the AHN report
- see the Reuters story