Sole Producer of U.S. Execution Drug Moves to Block Use, Calling It Unsafe

Lundbeck Inc., a Danish pharmaceutical company that is the sole manufacturer of injectable pentobarbital used in the U.S., recently announced that it will impose tougher conditions on distributors in an effort to prevent the drug’s use in executions. Lundbeck’s Chief Executive, Ulf Wiinberg, said his company will be switching to the use of specialist wholesalers and imposing “end user clauses” designed to stop pentobarbital from being sold for use in executions. Wiinberg will also be writing to state officials warning that it is not safe to use the drug in untested ways, including in lethal injection protocols. Wiinberg said, “We are willing to try to stop Nembutal’s (pentobarbital) misuse even if we can’t guarantee that it will necessarily work. Obviously we would like to do the right thing.” Early this year, departments of corrections in several states switched to using pentobarbital as part of a 3-drup protocol after another drug became unavailable. About a dozen inmates have been executed in the U.S. using this new drug in 2011, including three in Ohio, which uses a single lethal-dose of pentobarbital in its executions. Oklahoma, Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arizona have used pentobarbital as the first drug in a three-drug protocol this year.

(A. Jack, “Danes try to block use of drug in executions,” Financial Times, June 7, 2011). See Lethal Injection and Executions.