January 21, 2011
ASA Statement on Sodium Thiopental’s Removal From the Market
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) and its members are extremely troubled to learn that the anesthetic drug, sodium thiopental (Pentothal®), will no longer be available to patients in the United States due to the unfortunate circumstances in Italy that led the sole manufacturer, Hospira, to cease production of the drug.
Sodium thiopental is an important and medically necessary anesthetic agent that has been used for years to induce anesthesia in patients undergoing surgical procedures. Although its use has decreased in recent years due to the introduction of newer medications, such as propofol, 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 certainly does not condone the use of sodium thiopental for 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.
ASA has been working diligently in recent years to address the increasing problem of drug shortages that jeopardize patient safety. In November, ASA co-sponsored a Drug Shortage Summit with our coalition partners in an attempt to develop solutions to address these ongoing issues. Today’s announcement underscores the need to develop those solutions, such as redundancies within the manufacturing and distribution systems, to 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.
ASA letter sent to the FDA
The Wall Street Journal's coverage of the story