On Tuesday, Texas is set to execute Joseph Garcia. He’s scheduled to be the 12th person to be put to death in 2018. The state has had an ongoing problem maintaining its supply of pentobarbital, the sedative it uses for lethal injections. Since the manufacturer won’t let it be used for executions, the state has to get it from compounding pharmacies. While Texas has tried to keep those pharmacies a secret, an investigation from BuzzFeed News has identified one of those pharmacies, which has a spotty safety record.
“This is a pharmacy called Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy, out of Houston,” says Chris McDaniel, investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News. “For the past few years it’s been helping the state of Texas make at least some of its execution drugs. This is also a pharmacy whose license has been on probation for the past couple years … because it got caught by state regulators giving the wrong drug to three children accidentally, sending one to the hospital.”
McDaniel says that wasn’t the only time Greenpark got into trouble with regulators.
“Over the past eight years … they’ve been sited 48 times by state regulators. They’ve also been inspected by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has cited them for a few things, warning them that their practices were putting patients at risk,” McDaniel says.
Many pharmacies refuse to supply pentobarbital, and McDaniel says it’s a mystery why Greenpark supplies it to the state.
“I contacted a lot of people at Greenpark trying to figure that out and they would not talk to me,” he says. “They would not answer my questions on why they got involved or talk to me about the story we were doing.”
But it’s possible that Greenpark won’t work with the state indefinitely, especially now that it’s known to be a supplier of the execution drug.
“They filed a declaration under a pseudonym in court saying, ‘If our identity ever gets out we are not going to continue this relationship.’ Obviously, their identity is out; it remains to be seen whether they are going to follow through with that or not,” McDaniel says.
McDaniel say Greenpark’s main concern is that publicly acknowledging its relationship with the state could affect the company financially. But McDaniel says by being allowed to keep the information secret, the state can potentially contract with disreputable suppliers, and the public may never know.
“In five of the 11 executions Texas has had this year, the inmates, as they are dying, are talking about how the drug is burning going through their veins,” McDaniel says. “[That] would indicate that there’s a problem with how it’s being mixed. And of course with this pharmacy’s regulatory history, you can see this is something that state and federal regulators have been actively worried about and warning about.”
Written by Kristen Cabrera.