Texas prepares to execute their first prisoner using pentobarbital. Drug-maker Lundbeck looks on in silence

March 29, 2011

Cary Kerr is due to be executed in Texas in less than 48 hours using a drug manufactured by Danish pharmaceutical company, Lundbeck. Texas Department of Corrections used to operate the busiest death chamber in the country, but recent shortages of lethal injection drugs forced the state to slow down its execution rate. The switch in lethal injection protocol to Lundbeck-made pentobarbital will see a return to executing form, only now the machinery of death will be powered by Lundbeck’s drugs. The new protocol was hastily adopted by the Texas DOC without medical consultation or expert analysis. It is experimental and considered to be extremely dangerous. A recent report published by Northwestern and ACLU has shown that even animals would not be allowed to be euthanized using this combination of drugs because the risk of a torturous death is too high. Cary Kerr, who has been on death row for nearly a decade, says that he is less afraid of dying, than the way in which is going to die. His German penpal, Nicole, who has gone over to Texas to spend Kerr’s last days by his side, reports that he feels like ‘a guinea-pig; or worse than a guinea-pig, because they wouldn’t be allowed to do this to an animal.’ Nicole has written a letter to Lundbeck on Kerr’s behalf, urging them to do something to stop their drugs being used to ‘torture and kill [her] friend’. A simple statement from the company scientists saying that the untested cocktail is dangerous and should not be used on a human being could do a great deal to grant this man a stay. But thus far, Lundbeck have heeded none of the appeals to do even such small things to try to help the people scheduled to be killed with their drugs. Doctors, lawyers, human rights organisations, penpals, and prisoners have all written to Lundbeck. There are simple ways that Lundbeck could change the situation and prevent their drugs being used to kill people. Their silence on these issues, their continuing refusals to take meaningful action and their lack of transparency about their US business dealings are starting to cast a shadow of doubt over the good intentions of the company. All this at a time when the company’s reputation is already on the rocks. A report on Denmark’s main new station revealed on Sunday that Lundbeck had manufactured anti-depressives for children which had led to a number of suicides. The drugs were marketed against FDA regulations and Lundbeck’s partner company, Forest Laboratories, was forced to pay off 54 families as well as a 313 billion dollar fine to the US authorities. Nearly two-thirds of all executing states now plan to use Lundbeck’s pentobarbital to execute their prisoners. Reprieve’s Investigator, Maya Foa, said: “Lundbeck are doing themselves no favours. They have not been honest with the public or their shareholders, and there’ll be a price to pay as the truth comes out.”