Pfizer blocks sale of lethal injections for executions

Pfizer Inc, the largest US pharmaceutical company, yesterday said that it will block its drugs being used in lethal injections, effectively cutting off supply of the drug used by states for executions.

Execution room in the San Quentin State Prison in California  

"Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve. Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment," the company said in the statement made public on its website Friday.

These products include pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride, propofol, midazolam, hydromorphone, rocuronium bromide and vecuronium bromide, all of which are use in making lethal injections.

CNN reported "Lethal injection initially required a three-drug cocktail: The first (sodium thiopental or pentobarbital) puts the prisoner to sleep, the second (pancuronium bromide) brings on paralysis, and the final agent (potassium chloride) stops the heart."

The company also said that it would enforce this policy. ''Pfizer will consistently monitor the distribution of these seven products, act upon findings that reveal noncompliance, and modify policies when necessary to remain consistent with our stated position against the improper use of our products in lethal injections.''

The New York-based company said that the distribution restrict limits the sale of these seven products only to wholesalers, distributors, and direct purchasers under the condition that they will not resell these products to correctional institutions for use in lethal injections.

Government purchasing entities must certify that products they purchase or otherwise acquire are used only for medically prescribed patient care and not for any penal purposes. Pfizer further requires that these government purchasers certify that the product is for ''own use'' and will not resell or otherwise provide the restricted products to any other party.

The move will see that there will not be a single major US drug company from which prisons can access these drugs for death penalty executions.

Human rights groups in the US have long campaigned against using lethal injections for the purpose of capital punishment.

In 2010, European drug manufacturers banned the exports of ingredients used in lethal injections to the US.

Denmark-based Lundbeck banned US prisons from using its pentobarbital, while the UK banned exports of sodium thiopental.

Illinois-based pharmaceutical company Hospira, acquired last year by Pfizer for $15.23 billion, produced barbiturates and other drugs used in capital punishments.

Hospira had earlier banned the use of its drugs in capital punishment, and Pfizer's announcement was an update of the existing Hospira policy.

There are 31 states in the US that have the death penalty, of which, some opt for the electric chair, firing squad, gas chamber or hanging, while others use lethal injection.

There have been 14 executions in the US so far in 2016 in five states, while there were 28 executions in six states last year.