Pharmacists Group Votes To Discourage Members From Providing Execution Drugs

The largest pharmacist association in the country has voted to discourage its members from participating in executions.

The move could make executions harder for states that have been ordering their drugs from compounding pharmacies. As we've reported, some states like Texas turned to the pharmacies after big pharmaceutical companies — under pressure from death penalty opponents — decided to stop selling their drugs to U.S. prisons.

The American Pharmacists Association voted on the new policy at its annual meeting in San Diego on Monday.

The policy says it is discouraging its members from participating in executions because it is "fundamentally contrary to the role of pharmacists as providers of health care."

In a statement, the association's CEO Thomas Menighan said: "Pharmacists are health care providers and pharmacist participation in executions conflicts with the profession's role on the patient health care team. This new policy aligns APhA with the execution policies of other major health care associations including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Board of Anesthesiology."

The AP reports that under pressure from death penalty opponents, some compounding pharmacies had already stopped providing drugs to U.S. states. The AP adds:

"Texas' prison agency scrambled this month to find a supplier to replenish its inventory, then found a supply from a compounded pharmacy it won't identify. Also this month, an execution in Georgia was put off when prison authorities questioned the appearance of the compounded pentobarbital they planned to use.

"After a troubling use of a two-drug method last year, Ohio said it will use compounded versions of either pentobarbital or sodium thiopental in the future, though it doesn't have supplies of either drug and hasn't said how it will obtain them. All executions scheduled this year were pushed to 2016 to give the state more time to find the drugs."

The APhA represents some 62,000 practicing pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. The AP explains that its positions aren't legally binding, but hold the same kind of ethical sway that a pronouncement by the American Medical Association does for doctors.

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