The battle over capital punishment in America has moved from the prison gates to the pharmacy aisle. It is here that anti-death penalty groups are pressuring pharmacies and drug companies to refuse to supply lethal drugs for executions in the U.S. And in wake ofyesterday’s botched execution in Oklahoma, in which a new lethal drug mix resulted in an inmate’s agonized and prolonged death, the pressure is only intensifying.
Activists from SumOfUs.org, in partnership with the NAACP and Amnesty International,delivered a letter to the American Pharmacists Association in Washington D.C., urging the group to ban their members from making compound drugs used in lethal injections.
But a spokesperson for American Pharmacists Association said that a policy by APhA on this topic would not ban pharmacists from participating. Policies adopted by the group's House of Delegates are not regulations or laws. And there is no enforcement jurisdiction related to our adopted policy, the spokesperson, Michelle Spinnler, said via email.
Instead, the group's policies express the position of APhA and its members on various health care and pharmacy issues and are used to guide advocacy, education, and communication activities. Licensure and regulatory issues are determined and enforced by the board of pharmacy in the pharmacist’s state of licensure, she pointed out.
What is more, the few compounding pharmacists that are participating in this action are likely not members of APhA, Spinnler continued. There are nearly 300,000 licensed pharmacists in the US, but the group's total membership of licensed practicing pharmacists is only 30,000 or 10 percent.
The tactics are clearly working.
While most medical professional associations and pharmaceutical companies refuse to participate in executions, a small group of "compounding pharmacists," who are members of the American Pharmacists Association, are manufacturing and supplying lethal injection cocktails to be used in executions. Members of SumOfUs will be in Orlando, FL, this weekend for the annual American Pharmacist Associations House of Delegates meeting.
“Electric chairs, gas chambers, hangings, and firing squads have been banned by almost all states, leaving lethal injection as the only method of carrying out executions. But lethal injection by its very nature requires medical professionals to be involved. More recently, all major pharmaceutical companies have banned their drugs from being used,” explained Kaytee Riek, campaign manager for SumOfUs.org.
“So States have been been forced to turn to so-called ‘compounding pharmacists’ -- who are not regulated by the FDA -- to develop these deadly cocktails,” she said.
“If the American Pharmacists Association would ban their members from participating in executions, the Association could help put a stop to the manufacturing and supplying of drugs used for lethal injections and help end the use of the death penalty in the US once and for all,” added Riek.