United Kingdom Acts to Ban Export of Lethal Injection Drug

The United Kingdom has introduced restictions on the exportation of propofol after officials in Missouri announced they would begin using the anesthetic in executions. Exports of sodium thiopental, another anesthetic previously used in executions, were restricted after several states obtained that drug from DreamPharma, a drug company run out of the back of a driving school in London. Vince Cable, the U.K. Business Secretary, said, “This country opposes the death penalty. We are clear that the state should never be complicit in judiciary executions through the use of British drugs in lethal injections.” The ban will not prevent export of the drug for medical purposes.

Missouri is the first state to announce its intention to use propofol in executions. All executions in 2012 have used the anesthetic pentobarbital. Lundbeck, Inc., the Danish producer of pentobarbital, announced restrictions on its distribution to avoid its use in lethal injections. Recently, manufacturing rights were transferred to a U.S. company, Akorn, Inc., but restrictions on pentobarbital’s use were to stay in place. This week, Texas announced that it will begin using pentobarbital in a new one-drug protocol for executions. Four other states have already used a one-drug procedure. Oklahoma, which had previously stated that it had only enough pentobarbital for one more execution, announced on July 11 that it had acquired 20 additional doses from an unnamed source.

(“Lethal injection drug exports to be banned in UK,” The Telegraph (London), July 11, 2012; Associated Press, Dec. 21, 2011 (Lundbeck); Associated Press, July 10, 2012 (TX); Tulsa World, July 12, 2012 (OK)). See Lethal Injection. Listen to DPIC’s podcast on Lethal Injection. See also International.