Alabama to carry out first execution using Lundbeck drugs

May 19, 2011

Alabama is today set to execute its first prisoner using drugs produced by Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck. Jason Williams will be killed using the barbiturate pentobarbital, after US shortages of previously-used drugs led Alabama to switch. Copenhagen-headquartered firm Lundbeck is the sole supplier of this drug – also known as Nembutal – to death rows in America. Alabama is the latest in an increasingly long line of states to start using pentobarbital for executions as a result of shortages of the anaesthetic sodium thiopental. Williams will be the 11th person in the US executed with Lundbeck drugs. Legal action charity Reprieve has asked Lundbeck to take action to prevent its drugs from being used in this way. While Lundbeck claims to be strongly opposed to the use of its products in executions, the firm has yet to explain adequately why it cannot do more to put a stop to it. In Williams’ case, Lundbeck refused to submit an ‘amicus curiae’ brief to the court specifically stating its opposition to the use of pentobarbital in his execution, and raising concerns over the use of the product for purposes for which it was not intended. Reprieve Investigator Maya Foa said:

“Lundbeck are fast becoming better known for ending lives than for improving them. “Aside from moral concerns, this is damaging their reputation as a business – one investor recently sold their shares and others are asking questions. “Lundbeck should exit the execution drug market immediately if they want to salvage their reputation.”

ENDS

Notes to editors 1. For further information please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0)20 7427 1082 2. Reprieve previously asked Lundbeck to submit an amicus curiae (‘friend of the court) brief, providing a suggested draft, but the firm declined. http://www.reprieve.org.uk/2011_05_12_Lundbeck_refuses_amicus 3. Reprieve has suggested a range of possible courses of action to Lundbeck to put a stop to the use of its drugs in executions – a briefing on the issue can be found here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/static/downloads/2011_05_12_PUB_NEMBUTAL_DISTRIBUTION_BRIEFING.pdf 4. Alabama will become the sixth US state to have carried out executions using Lundbeck’s pentobarbital. The other states and the names of those executed so far are as follows:Mississippi: Benny Stevens, Rodney GrayOklahoma: John David Duty, Billy Don Alverson, Jeffrey MatthewsOhio: Johnnie Baston, Clarence Carter, Daniel BedfordSouth Carolina: Jeffrey MottsTexas: Cary Kerr 5. Danish pension fund Unipension recently sold their shares in Lundbeck, citing concerns over their use in executions and the company’s unwillingness to engage with investors on the issue. Unipension told the Associated Press: “It has not been possible for Unipension to get a detailed report regarding Lundbeck’s efforts to ensure that its products are not used in an unwanted manner […] It has been our impression that Lundbeck did not want to engage in a genuine dialogue with us as an investor.”http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/05/13/general-eu-denmark-execution-drug_8465488.html