Sodium thiopental is a barbituate with a lot of uses, mostly medical, but it is also used alone or in combination with other drugs for lethal injection executions in the United States.
As of this coming Friday, drug manufacturers in the European Union may no longer ship sodium thiopental (aka sodium pentothal) to the US without special authorization.
The sole manufacturer of sodium thiopental in America, Hospira, refuses to allow its product to be used for fatal injections for humans, and according to American laws it is prohibited to simply change the formal for the injections. A complex approval is required. Due to its scarcity, executions are often postponed as authorities try to procure the drug from abroad, for example from Europe.
According to Wikipedia the United States is one of nineteen countries which continues to exercise capital punishment.
*I realize, of course, that the countries with the most heinous executions don’t rely on drugs — axes, ropes and firing squads will do the job more cheaply. But America has become uncomfortable enough with capital punishment to ensure that it won’t be switching from lethal injection to beheading any time soon.