Lundbeck drugs allow first South Carolina execution for 2 years

May 6, 2011

Lundbeck drugs allow first South Carolina execution for 2 years Drugs supplied by pharmaceutical company Lundbeck will today [Friday] allow the first execution in South Carolina in two years to go ahead. Jeffrey Motts is set to be the first prisoner executed in the state using a new three-drug ‘cocktail’, adopted as a result of shortages in the US of a key anaesthetic previously used in the process. A barbiturate, pentobarbital, will for the first time be used by South Carolina’s authorities as the initial step in the cocktail. This is an untested process which has raised concerns – not least as it is explicitly outlawed by vets for the euthanasia of animals. Denmark-headquartered Lundbeck is increasingly becoming the major player in the American execution drugs market as it is the sole supplier of pentobarbital to the USA. Death rows in the US have struggled to get hold of the previously-used drug, sodium thiopental, ever since domestic production ceased and action by Governments and companies around the world opposed to the death penalty cut off many lines of supply. South Carolina had obtained a stockpile of sodium thiopental from a British supplier operating out of the back of a driving school in Acton – however, this was seized towards the end of April by the US Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA). As a result, they have now turned to Lundbeck’s pentobarbital.

Despite this, and the wider issue of the use of their products in executions, Lundbeck have refused to explain why they will not take action to prevent this from happening. Today’s execution is expected to bring the total number of people executed in the US using Lundbeck’s drugs to seven. Reprieve Investigator Maya Foa said:

“Lundbeck say they’re committed to improving life, yet this week alone their drugs have been used for two deaths. Something is indeed rotten in the state of Denmark.”


Notes to editors For more information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0)20 7427 1082 / 07791 755 415.

Earlier this week (3rd May), Lundbeck pentobarbital was also used in the execution of Cary Kerr in Texas. It has also been used in three recent executions in Ohio and two in Oklahoma.

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 27 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.