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Compassion & Choices (C&C), the national assisted-suicide activist group, has proposed that it join the lethal drug trade as the only US distributor of pentobarbital, the assisted-suicide drug of choice.

In May, Drs. Nancy Crumpacker and Peter Reagan, C&C’s former and present medical directors, met with the Oregon Board of Pharmacy (OBP) to discuss a serious problem facing assisted-suicide patients in Oregon and Washington (as well as Vermont): Pentobarbital, brand name Nembutal, is no longer available in the US.

The drug is a casualty of death penalty opposition, with the European Union banning the export of drugs used in US executions. US compounding pharmacies—which get raw materials from manufacturers to make drugs that are not available—have also been forced to stop supplying the drug due to the death penalty controversy.

According to Gary Miner, the OBP’s compliance director, Drs. Crumpacker and Reagan proposed C&C’s solution to the problem: if an Oregon compounding pharmacy were allowed to get the raw materials and make pentobarbital, C&C would distribute the drug. Miner said he did not see any legal reason why C&C’s plan would not work.

Secobarbital is the second-best assisted-suicide drug, but it also is becoming scarce and is five times more expensive than pentobarbital—a high price often prohibitive for patients. C&C of Washington is helping that state’s assisted-suicide patients pay for the drug.

C&C has been extremely quiet about the lethal drug problem because of concerns over the bad publicity hampering its efforts to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in states across the country. [Willamette Week, 5/21/14; Real Change News 6/18/14; KIRO TV, 6/27/14]
[Summer 2014, Vol.28, No.4, Patients Rights Council Update, ]