HOUSTON – Texas prison officials disclosed Wednesday that they are using a compounding pharmacy to obtain the drug used during executions.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, responding to a Freedom of Information request from The Associated Press, released documents showing the purchase of eight vials of pentobarbital last month from a compounding pharmacy in suburban Houston. Such pharmacies custom-make drugs but aren't subject to federal scrutiny.
Texas' previous supply of the sedative expired last month. Prison officials had refused to say where they were getting their new supply after many companies refused to sell the drug for use in executions, leading to a shortage in death penalty states.
Texas — which carries out far more executions than any other state — now has enough pentobarbital to carry out scheduled executions into next year, department spokesman Jason Clark said. Pentobarbital has been used as the lone drug in lethal executions in Texas for more than a year.
"The agency has purchased a new supply of the drug from a Texas pharmacy that has the ability to compound," Clark said.
The purchase invoice shows that the warden from the Huntsville Unit, where executions are carried out in Texas, bought eight 2.5-gram vials of pentobarbital on Sept. 16. Five grams, or two vials, are used in each execution, though another 5 grams are available to officials in the death chamber should they be needed to complete the execution.
Clark said the agency also has purchased another similar eight vials.
The disclosure came a day after a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of three death-row inmates who are challenging the state's use of the drug. The lawsuit, filed in Houston, contends that Texas' use of untested drugs during an execution violates the U.S. Constitution's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
Among the defendants is death-row inmate Michael Yowell, who is scheduled for execution on Oct. 9. He was convicted of killing his parents at their home in Lubbock.
Clark said he had not seen the lawsuit and would not comment on it.