Doctors petition Lundbeck to stop supplying execution drugs

June 9, 2011

On Thursday 9th June, leading neurologist Dr David Nicholl will present Lundbeck Inc with a petition signed by over 90 doctors calling on the major pharmaceuticals firm to stop supplying drugs used in executions to US prisons.

The petition, backed by healthcare professionals from around the world, will be presented at the Lundbeck-sponsored 15th International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders in Toronto.

Pentobarbital (also known as Nembutal) supplied by Lundbeck has so far been used to kill 13 prisoners in the US – but this number is set to hit 20 by the end of this month alone.

There have been no clinical tests to determine whether the drug can be used in this way without causing pain to the prisoner during their execution.

The petition states:

“As clinicians and prescribers of Lundbeck’s products, we are appalled at the inaction of Lundbeck to prevent the supply of their drug, Pentobarbital (Nembutal), for use in executions in the US…It is time for Lundbeck to stop issuing platitudes and ensure that its products are used properly to benefit human health.”

WHO: Dr David Nicholl, Consultant NeurologistWHAT: Presenting doctors’ petition to Lundbeck on lethal injection drugs supplyWHERE: The Lundbeck Stand at the International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders, The Metro Toronto Convention Centre, South Building, 222 Bremner Boulevard Toronto, ON M5V 3L9, CanadaWHEN: 12 pm Thursday 9th June 2011


Notes to editors

1. For further information please contact Dr David Nicholl +44 7528 973 210 or, or Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0)20 7427 1082 / (0) 7791 755 415

2. Click here to view the petition.

The signatories to the petition include doctors from the US, Canada, Denmark (where Lundbeck is headquartered), India, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Ireland.

Among the signatories are- Prof Mogens Dam, a former President of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE)- Prof Phil Smith, President of the UK chapter of the ILAE- George Thomas, Editor of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics- Andre N. Sofair, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Public Health

3. In order to attend this event you will need to register with the conference organisers – details can be found here.

4. Legal action charity 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.

5. So far, Lundbeck’s drugs have been used in 13 executions across seven US states, as follows:

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

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.

6. Lundbeck told Reprieve on Monday 6 June that they were reconsidering their position, but have yet to outline what concrete steps they will be taking to restrict supply. Further information can be found here.

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.