The American Society of Anesthesiologists criticized the lack of availability of sodium thiopental as an anesthetic agent after the sole manufacturer, Hospira, ceased production of the drug.
Hospira announced last week it would end production of sodium thiopental, marketed as Pentothal, because of legal liability concerns over the drugs use in lethal injections. The issue stemmed from concerns of authorities in Italy, where Hospira manufactured Pentothal.
We regret that issues outside of our control forced Hospiras decision to exit the market, and that our many hospital customers who use the drug for its well-established medical benefits will not be able to obtain the product from Hospira, the company said in a news release.
The ASA expressed its disappointment in a statement Monday.
Sodium thiopental is an important and medically necessary anesthetic agent that has been used for years to induce anesthesia in patients undergoing surgical procedures, the ASA said in a news release.
Noting that the introduction of newer medications, such as propofol, has decreased the use of sodium thiopental, the ASA said sodium thiopental is still considered a first-line anesthetic in many cases, including those involving geriatric, neurologic, cardiovascular and obstetric patients, for whom the side effects of other medications could lead to serious complications.
The ASA said it does not condone the use of sodium thiopental in capital punishment, but we also do not condone using the issue as the basis to place undue burdens on the distribution of this critical drug to the United States. It is an unfortunate irony that many more lives will be lost or put in jeopardy as a result of not having the drug available for its legitimate medical use.
The ASA said the issue of overall drug shortages has the potential to jeopardize patient safety. Solutions such as redundancies within the manufacturing and distribution system, according to the ASA, may ensure that our patients have the necessary drugs available when they are needed. ASA will continue its efforts to work with the federal government and its coalition partners to address this important patient safety issue.