Dozen Dead with Danish Drugs

May 27, 2011

Twelve people have now been killed using drugs produced by a Danish company in the US, following yesterday’s execution in Arizona of Donald Beaty.

Mr Beaty had been granted a last minute stay of execution when the DEA seized Arizona’s supply of sodium thiopental, the anaesthetic previously used in the three drug execution cocktail, which they had illegally imported from Britain. However, the state was able to quickly make the switch to Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck’s pentobarbital (Nembutal), which is fast becoming US executioners’ drug of choice following domestic shortages of sodium thiopental.

Arizona made the change rapidly, having neither tested the drug nor given executioners proper training in the new protocol. Lundbeck has so far refused to take a range of steps suggested by Reprieve in order to put a stop to its drugs being used in this way.

Commenting, Reprieve investigator Maya Foa said:

“Lundbeck have always claimed to be against the death penalty, but every time they are given an opportunity to prevent deaths caused by their own products, they refuse it. Lundbeck shareholders are right to question the integrity and business sense of this company: Lundbeck’s lack of action is costing lives; if it continues, it will cost them their reputation too.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0)20 7427 1082

2. 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:

3. Lundbeck’s drugs have now been used in 12 executions across seven US states, as follows:

Alabama: Jason WilliamsArizona: Donald BeatyMississippi: Benny Stevens, Rodney GrayOklahoma: John David Duty, Billy Don Alverson, Jeffrey MatthewsOhio: Johnnie Baston, Clarence Carter, Daniel BedfordSouth Carolina: Jeffrey MottsTexas: Cary Kerr

These numbers are set to grow as more and more states are turning to Lundbeck’s drugs following shortages of the previously-used anaesthetic sodium thiopental.

4. 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.”