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Texas reveals execution drug origin

The gurney in the death chamber is shown in this file photo from Huntsville, Texas. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, responding to a Freedom of Information request from The Associated Press, released documents Wednesday showing the purchase of eight vials of pentobarbital last month from a compounding pharmacy in suburban Houston. AP photo

The gurney in the death chamber is shown in this file photo from Huntsville, Texas. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, responding to a Freedom of Information request from The Associated Press, released documents Wednesday showing the purchase of eight vials of pentobarbital last month from a compounding pharmacy in suburban Houston. AP photo

HOUSTON — The nation’s most active death-penalty state has turned to a compounding pharmacy to replace its expired execution drugs, according to documents released Wednesday, weeks after Texas prison officials declined to say how they obtained the drugs amid a nationwide shortage.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice released documents showing the purchase of eight vials of the drug 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. Several companies have been refusing to sell the drug for use in executions, leading to a shortage in death penalty states, though South Dakota and Georgia have also turned to compounding pharmacies.

Texas 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 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 new drugs.

The lawsuit, filed in Houston, contends that Texas’ use of untested drugs during an execution would violate the U.S. Constitution’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers products from compounding pharmacy unapproved drugs and does not verify their safety or effectiveness.

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