• Lauren S.

Missouri’s lethal injections sourced from secretive, “high risk” pharmacy

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

(Missouri) – Missouri fought for years to hide the source of its execution drugs. Findings in a newly released article by Buzzfeed explain all the secrecy: Missouri’s lethal-injection drug supplier Foundation Care has a long history of FDA violations.  Pharmacies like Foundation Care are more loosely regulated, and slipshod practices at some have led to tainted drugs and deadly disease outbreaks.


As BuzzFeed found, “Foundation Care, a 14-year-old pharmacy based in the suburbs of St. Louis that has been repeatedly found to engage in hazardous pharmaceutical procedures and whose cofounder has been been accused of regularly ordering prescription medications for himself without a doctor’s prescription… Foundation Care is what is known as a compounding pharmacy, one that mixes specialty drugs that are not readily available on the market. These pharmacies are more loosely regulated than traditional manufacturers, and slipshod practices at some of them have led to tainted drugs and deadly disease outbreaks.”

Foundation Care has also had multiple lawsuits from employees, one of which is ongoing and alleges that “Foundation Care violated state or federal regulations by reselling drugs returned by patients, purposefully omitting the names of ingredients in drugs it prepared, and failing to notify other states about a $300,000 settlement with Kansas over allegations of Medicaid fraud. The suit also accuses one of the pharmacy’s founders of ‘regularly and frequently’ ordering prescription medications for himself without a prescription, a crime that carries up to a year behind bars. One of the employees alleged that during a dispute with the founders, she was held against her will and feared she would be physically struck.”

The FDA designated Foundation Care a “high-risk” pharmacy in 2013 and has cited it for multiple violations. And “on the very day the FDA warned Missouri about the company, executioners injected Foundation Care’s drugs into a death row inmate.”


To prepare for an execution, Missouri bought these drugs through cash transactions, skirting anti-fraud rules and the requirement for a witness. David Dormire, the second in command at Missouri Department of Corrections before resigning last year amidst suspicions of being deceptive in his responses in several investigations, would exchange an envelope of $7,178.88 in cash to “M7,” the state’s code name for Foundation Care. It would receive four vials of pentobarbital, or 10 grams, which was double what was required for one execution, “providing the state a backup in case things went wrong.


Nationwide, secrecy laws around lethal injections are responsible for botched executions and illegal drug deals and expose a state to lengthy litigation, costs, and liabilities. By turning to secret suppliers in compounding pharmacies, Missouri has made it virtually impossible to avoid the risk that contaminated, substandard, or even counterfeit drugs will be used in its executions. Secrecy laws undermine overall public health because the misuse of medicines in executions is detrimental to public health and undermines patients’ access to vital medicines. States’ stockpiles of execution drugs could be used to treat thousands of patients in life-or-death procedures.


Missouri has scheduled the execution of Russell Bucklew for March 20, 2018. Bucklew has a rare medical condition for which he received a stay in 2014 from the U.S. Supreme Court. He faces a heightened risk of a botched execution. Because of tumors in his nose and throat, experts for his defense say that lethally injecting him puts him at risk of choking to death.

Secrecy laws around lethal injection drug sourcing are also bad for business in the state: by purchasing drugs in illicit markets, the state knowingly and deliberately undermines contractual restrictions established to prevent the drugs from being used for executions. The state essentially pits itself against the industry and exposes companies to serious financial, legal, and reputational risks they wish to avoid.


Once again, Missouri shows that it cannot be trusted to carry out executions.


Please call Governor Greitens at (573) 751-3222: tell him to stop the execution of Russell Bucklew for March 20 and end Missouri’s shady deals with a corrupt pharmacy.

Tell Gov. Greitens: this is not what we stand for in Missouri.

Sample script: “Hi, my name is (your name), and I live in (city), Missouri. I am calling to ask Gov. Greitens to stop the execution of Russell Bucklew scheduled for March 20th and for him to end Missouri’s shady deals for lethal injection drugs.”

Other points you can make:

  1. Missouri’s lethal injection drugs are of questionable quality, making executions the equivalent of a botched medical experiment.

  2. Russell has a rare medical condition that he already received a stay in 2014 from the U.S. Supreme Court. He faces a heightened risk of a botched execution. Because of tumors in his nose and throat, experts for his defense say that lethally injecting him puts him at risk of choking to death.

  3. The state obtains these drugs in secrecy from a backwater pharmacy with multiple FDA citations and lawsuits. This means more litigation, costs, liabilities and an increased likelihood of contaminated, substandard, or even counterfeit drugs for Missouri.

  4. Missouri’s engagement in these shady practices to carry out our death penalty truly challenges how this practice is based in justice – or how we are a civilized, advanced society.

You can also submit an email by clicking here.

Please also be sure to sign and share our petition for Russell Bucklew here.

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©2020 by Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.