05 April 2011
By Hemali Chhapia
Kayem Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd, at Marian Colony, shipped a 500–gram consignment of the yellow powder, packed in a hefty 25–kg strongbox, on December 8, 2010, to the Nebraska department of correctional services. Sodium thiopental is generally used along with pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride to create a cocktail with which several states in the US carry out the death sentence by lethal injection.
In February this year, Kayem sold another consignment to the South Dakota department of corrections. Executions are yet to be carried out by Nebraska or South Dakota with the drug purchased from Kayem.
Sodium thiopental has been in short supply in the US for about a year after the sole American company that manufactured it ceased production. That has forced American prisons to look abroad.
For Nebraska and South Dakota, that search led to the residential Greenfield Cooperative Housing Society in Borivli (West), where Kayem is located. Kayem is a two–room set–up – office and storeroom – with a balcony that doubles as a kitchen. The Lethal Drug
- Sodium thiopental is part of a three–drug cocktail used in injections to execute death row convicts
- In recent years, it was used as a single lethal drug in a couple of executions in Ohio and Washington
- Kayem Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd of Borivli (W) (above) has supplied consignments to correctional facilities in Nebraska and South Dakota Rs 35/gm drug sells for Rs 445
That prompted a lawyer in Nebraska–where the execution of Carey Dean Moore, 53, is pending–to move court there against the use of the sodium thiopental bought from Kayem Phamaceuticals Pvt Ltd, Borivli. There were also questions raised about whether Kayem is registered in the US. Officials in the Nebraska corrections department did not respond to queries emailed by this newspaper. But, replying to the court in the Nebraska case, state solicitor–general J Kirk Brown said: "The state of Nebraska has duly enacted a new statutory method of execution (lethal injection) and adopted an execution protocol pursuant to the statute, which together satisfy all currently understood requirements of our state and federal constitutions."
Kayem, a small–scale company, may now be in a position to increase its business. "Several American states have now approached us for sodium thiopental," said Navneet Verma, director, Kayem. Verma said he sold the first consignment of 500 gm to Nebraska at US $3.50 a gram. That works out to US $1,750, or around Rs 78,000. When officials at the South Dakota corrections services evinced interest to buy the drug, Kayem jacked the price up to $10 a gram, or around Rs 445 a gram. Derived by mixing sodium and thiopentone, the drug sodium thiopental doesn’t require a huge facility for manufacturing and goes for around Rs 35 a gram in the Indian market.
DEATH BY INJECTION Usual procedure for causing death by lethal injection
l Convict is strapped to a gurney l His arms are swabbed with alcohol l An intra–venous (IV) line is inserted in each arm. One is the real one, the other the back–up l Saline is dripped through each IV line to check if they are working l Heart monitor is attached l Sodium thiopental is injected into the convict to cause unconsciousness in a few seconds l Pancuronium is injected to cause muscle paralysis; with respiratory muscles not working, death through asphyxiation can result l Potassium chloride is injected to stop the heart and cause death by cardiac arrest
Going Numb & Number
Some uses of sodium thiopental
Sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride has been used in 34 states of the US to execute prisoners. In a recent development, a couple of executions in the US states of Ohio and Washington were carried out with only sodium thiopental and not the three–drug cocktail
A few countries have systems in which sodium thiopental is used first followed by pancuronium bromide
Has been used to induce general anaesthesia, but it is being replaced by other drugs, like propofol
Medically induced coma
Has been used for this purpose, but is being replaced by other drugs
It can be used as a truth serum to make subjects more talkative
Used by psychiatrists to help patients with trauma