A media account says Missouri has engaged in a scheme to avoid disclosure that it paid a pharmacy for the drugs it used to execute inmates.

Image courtesy of the Missouri Department of Corrections

Supplies of drugs used in executions largely dried up when European manufacturers, who were the chief supplier, refused to supply the treatments for such purposes.

Buzzfeed News reports that since 2014, Missouri has paid $135,000, sometimes in cash payments, to suburban St. Louis pharmacy Foundation Care for vials of pentobarbital to use in executions.  Foundation Care was recently sold to St. Louis based healthcare provider Centene Corporation.

Buzzfeed News says before it published its story, Centene declined to comment, but that afterword the company claimed that under its ownership, Foundation Care has not and will not supply pharmaceutical products for use in executions.  The media outlet says two anonymous sources confirm Missouri used Foundation Care’s drugs for 17 executions.

The Associated Press reported that the Department of Corrections declined to comment on the report from Buzzfeed News and on Centene’s promise never to provide execution drugs.

A web search finds that Foundation Care has offered compounding services, meaning it mixes individual ingredients together to provide the exact strength and dosage of drugs needed for an application.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, compounding pharmacies do not face the same approval process for their products that large manufacturers face, leading to concerns about the safety and efficacy of their products.

A state appeals court rejected a lawsuit over how Missouri obtains its lethal injection drug in 2016.  The suit claimed Missouri was breaking state and federal law by using an illegal prescription to access pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy.

Attorney Justin Gelfand, who represented the plaintiffs, said at the time that the Department of Corrections was unlawfully using a copied version of the drug because its manufacturer won’t sell it for the purpose of executing people.

The suit also claimed the state was using the drug without proper authorization because its physicians are given no discretion over whether or not to issue the prescription.