RICHMOND, Va. — In the span of a year, the cost for the state of Virginia to obtain lethal injection drugs has leapt from about $525 per execution to $16,500.

The price rose after the General Assembly passed a law allowing the state to buy execution drugs from compounding pharmacies whose identities are secret, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported ( ).

The law, which took effect July 1, was passed after lawmakers feared executions in Virginia would grind to a halt as pharmaceutical companies stopped participating in the death penalty nationwide.

It had cost slightly less than $250 in 2014 to receive the drugs directly from pharmaceutical manufacturers, the Department of Corrections said.

Brian Coy, a spokesman for Gov. Terry McAuliffe, called the $16,500 price tag “the cost of enforcing the law.”

McAuliffe, a Democrat, proposed the secrecy bill this year as an alternative to a Republican proposal to use the electric chair as a fallback option if the state were ever left unable to carry out scheduled executions because of a lack of drugs.

Critics wondered, however, whether the secrecy of the transaction has left the government ripe for the picking.

“It sounds like we’re executing people with designer heroin or something,” said Democratic state Sen. Scott A. Surovell, a death penalty opponent who voted against the secrecy law. “Usually when government does things secretly, taxpayers end up paying through the nose. … Instead of $2,000 toilet seats, I guess we’re going to get $15,000 injections.”

The cost pays for three doses of the compounded drug — a primary dose and two backups — as well as enough vials for the drug to be tested every month until its expiration date.

Officials redacted the cost in their initial response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, but disclosed the price after a reporter questioned whether the secrecy law also shields the contract’s financial details.

Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch,