Lundbeck finally accepts it must act on execution drugs

June 6, 2011

Maya Foa, of the Legal action charity Reprieve, today met with the Chief Executive of Lundbeck, the pharmaceutical company which has been supplying lethal injection drugs to US death rows.

During the meeting, Lundbeck’s CEO, Ulf Wiinberg, told Ms Foa that the company has reconsidered its position – which Reprieve has said from the beginning was untenable. Mr Wiinberg now acknowledges that there are steps that the company could take to restrict the distribution of pentobarbital (also known as Nembutal) so that it is not delivered to execution chambers in the US, but still reaches legitimate users.

While the company would not make concrete assurances, it is now actively considering Reprieve’s proposals and has hired ‘external consultants’ to assess the most effective strategies. Following fierce criticism from press, politicians, NGOs and shareholders, Lundbeck has promised to be more transparent in their communications on this matter going forward. Wiinberg assured Reprieve that this time the full independent consultancy would be published.

Following the meeting, Reprieve Investigator Maya Foa said:

“At last we are beginning to see some positive movement from Lundbeck on this issue. But too much time has already been lost – not to mention too many lives. 13 people have been killed so far using their drugs, and another seven are set to be executed by the end of this month – the timeframe in which Lundbeck promises to reconsider the issue. Given the drugs that Lundbeck have sold since we first warned the company that 3,000 prisoners faced execution with pentobarbital in the US, scores of lives could be taken. Lundbeck must not only stop the supply immediately, but also comply with all Reprieve’s requests to repair the damage that has been done. They cannot repurchase their reputation for a mess of pottage; they have an obligation to take immediate and effective action.”


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 so far been used in 13 executions across seven US states, as follows:

Alabama: Jason Williams

Arizona: Donald Beaty

Mississippi: Benny Stevens, Rodney Gray

Oklahoma: John David Duty, Billy Don Alverson, Jeffrey Matthews

Ohio: Johnnie Baston, Clarence Carter, Daniel Bedford

South Carolina: Jeffrey Motts

Texas: Cary Kerr, Gayland Bradford

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.”