The nationwide shortage of a drug commonly used in lethal injection executions has many states looking for alternatives, but Kentucky is not likely to change its formula for executions anytime soon.
Sodium thiopental has been in short supply for months. Kentucky purchased several doses earlier this year, but public defender David Barron has sought to have it declared unusable because it may have been manufactured and sold illegally.
“There’s currently no FDA-approved manufacturer of the drug in the United States. There’s also no reason or need for them to continue to use that drug in lethal injections. As we’ve seen recently, numerous other states have changed to a different chemical,” says Barron.
Several states have begun using the substitute drug pentobarbital in executions. A spokesperson for the Justice Cabinet says Kentucky officials are not considering a similar switch at this time. Even if they were, Barron says it would take at least four to six months to make such a change.
“They would have to go through the Administrative Procedure Act process again, which would require them to provide notice and the opportunity for the public to provide comment on the change in the drugs,” he says.
Any change to protocol may be moot in Kentucky, however, as an injunction is currently blocking all executions.