The European Union had threatened to prohibit the shipment of the drug Propofol to the United States if Missouri and other states were to use the drug as a means of lethal injections in executions. The drug, which the public recognizes as the anesthetic that Michael Jackson overdosed on, is used commonly in surgical applications, and has been proven safe when used correctly. The concern was that if Missouri used Propofol in executions, a shortage of the drug would follow if shipments to the U.S. were cut off.

Gov. Jay Nixon made the following statement: “As Governor, my interest is in making sure justice is served and public health is protected.  That is why, in light of the issues that have been raised surrounding the use of propofol in executions, I have directed the Department of Corrections that the execution of Allen Nicklasson, as set for Oct. 23, will not proceed. I have further directed the Department to modify the State of Missouri’s Execution Protocol to include a different form of lethal injection.  The Attorney General will immediately request a new execution date for Allen Nicklasson from the Missouri Supreme Court.”

NicklassonDrug manufacturer Fresenius Kabi is praising Gov. Nixon on his decision to not use Propofol in executions. Fresenius Kabi says Nixon’s decision will help to avert a national shortage of Propofol, one of the world’s most widely used anesthesia drugs.

“I want to thank Governor Nixon for his leadership on this important issue,” CEO John Ducker says in a press release. “This is a decision that will be welcomed by the medical community and patients nationwide who were deeply concerned about the potential of a drug shortage.  We are hopeful other states follow Governor Nixon’s lead on this vital matter of public health.”

The state of Missouri was also planning to use Propofol in a Nov. 20 execution of Joseph Franklin. (For background on Nicklasson and Franklin, visit

FranklinThis would have been the first-ever use of Propofol in an execution, and it could have led to a severe shortage of this drug that would have affected millions of patients nationwide.

“Fresenius Kabi takes no position on capital punishment,” the company says, “but the company objects to the use of Propofol in lethal injection.  Such use is contrary to the FDA-approved indications for Propofol and would lead the European Union (EU), where about 90 percent of the drug is manufactured, to impose severe restrictions on its export to the United States. In the United States alone, Propofol is administered some 50 million times annually in approximately 15,000 hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities.”

“We are very pleased Governor Nixon has recognized the risk that using Propofol in executions could lead to a shortage of this critical drug and has directed the Missouri Department of Corrections to return Fresenius Kabi’s Propofol so it is not used in any executions,” the company says. “However, we remain very concerned that use of Propofol – even domestically produced Propofol – in any executions would still lead to a severe shortage of Propofol in the United States.  EU regulations do not make a distinction on the source of a drug as export sanctions or bans are considered. ”

“We continue to communicate with concerned stakeholders, U.S. state, federal and EU officials to ensure that Propofol is used only for its intended therapeutic purposes.”