By Carey Gillam
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A "compounding pharmacy" will supply lethal injection drugs for future executions in Missouri, the latest U.S. state to turn to the lightly regulated sector after major pharmaceutical companies refused to sell drugs for executions, the state said on Tuesday.
The Missouri Department of Corrections said in a brief statement that it would switch to using a single drug for executions, pentobarbital. Missouri had used a three drug protocol until recently.
"The department also announced that it has added a compounding pharmacy to its execution team," the statement said. Asked the name of the pharmacy, department spokesman David Owen said that information could not be disclosed.
Missouri is the latest of a half dozen U.S. states turning for lethal injection drugs to compounding pharmacies - which typically mix drugs for individual prescriptions and are subject to light federal government regulation.
The practice has drawn protests from opponents of the death penalty and advocates for death row inmates, who say the lack of regulation risks a botched execution.
A Massachusetts compounding pharmacy was the source of tainted pain injections which caused an outbreak of a rare type of meningitis last year that killed at least 50 people and sickened hundreds in 20 states.
Compounding pharmacies must register with state authorities but their products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Texas this month executed its first prisoner using a drug from a compounding pharmacy. Other states which have turned to such suppliers or have said they may do so soon include Georgia, South Dakota, Colorado and Ohio.
A judge in Georgia this year granted a temporary stay of execution for a prisoner in part because of concerns about the quality of the compounded drug.
Missouri announced earlier this month that it would search for a new drug for executions after it came under pressure from drug makers, especially in Europe, not to use the drug propofol in executions.
A German maker of the drug, Fresenius Kabi, had suspended shipments to a U.S. distributor after some of the drug was provided to Missouri for executions.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had published on its website embarrassing details of emails from the drug supplier pleading for Missouri not use the drug propofol in executions because of pressure from Europe.
The ACLU issued a statement on Tuesday after the announcement, protesting Missouri's decision to keep the identity of its new supplier of lethal injection drugs secret.
"The state has retaliated by now making it illegal to name anyone who supplies the drugs. This is not the open and transparent government that Missourians deserve," the ACLU said.
Joseph Paul Franklin is the next Missouri inmate scheduled for execution on November 20.
(Additional reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Scott Malone and Andrew Hay)