Pentobarbital is in the barbiturate family. It usually is used as its sodium salt: as a short-term sedative and hypnotic; a veterinary anesthetic; and, in emergencies, an anticonvulsant. The salt is marketed under trade names such as Nembutal and Embutal.
Pentobarbital sodium also has been used in animal and, where legal, human euthanasia—and as an injectable drug for capital punishment. Its use in lethal injections has been in the news because producers of pentobarbital refused to sell it (specifically Nembutal) for this purpose. Similar shortages of other lethal injectables have caused some states to eliminate this form of capital punishment, adding another layer to the discussion about this controversial topic.
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