Indian pharma company, Naari, demands return of drugs ‘wrongfully diverted’ from developing world to US executions

November 29, 2011

A Swiss-Indian pharmaceutical company is demanding that the US state of Nebraska returns drugs which it says were ‘wrongfully diverted’ there to be used in lethal injections.

The Chief Executive of Naari has written to the Chief Justice of Nebraska’s Supreme Court, stating that he is ‘shocked and appalled’ that supplies of an anaesthetic which the firm believed were set for medical use in the developing world have in fact been supplied to the US state’s death row.

Prithi Kochhar, CEO of Naari, states that his firm authorised a supplier, Chris Harris, to use samples of their sodium thiopental in order to register the product for use in Zambia – where it is still widely used as an anaesthetic, unlike in the US. However, he says that instead, Mr Harris ‘misappropriated our medicines’, diverting them to Nebraska’s Department of Corrections, where the drug is used as the first stage in a three-part lethal injection ‘cocktail’.

Reprieve investigator Maya Foa said: “These drugs were meant to save lives in the developing world, not end them in the US. Diverting them from one to the other has to be a new low, even by the standards of the murky execution drugs trade. Naari are understandably appalled by this – Nebraska must return their product to them without delay.” ENDS Notes to editors 1. For further information, please see the Lethal Injection Investigation page on Reprieve’s website, or contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0) 207 427 1082 / +44 (0) 7791 755 415

2. The full text of Prithi Kochhar’s letter is as follows. Dear Chief Justice Michael Heavican, I am writing to you on an extremely grave and urgent issue. It has recently been brought to my attention that Nebraska Department of Correctional Services has purchased 485 grams of sodium thiopental manufactured for Naari which it intends to use in capital punishment procedures in Nebraska. I am shocked and appalled by this news. Naari did not supply these medicines directly to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and is deeply opposed to the use of the medicines in executions. The medicines in question were supplied by Naari to a man called Mr. Chris Harris. The agreement with Mr. Harris was that he would use these vials for registration in Zambia. Our intention was to get the product registered in Zambia and then begin selling it there, since sodium thiopental is used very widely as an anaesthetic in the developing world. Mr. Harris was authorised specifically to take the product to Zambia and get it registered there. He was not authorised to sell the product to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services or to anyone else in the USA. Mr. Harris misappropriated our medicines and diverted them from their intended purpose and use. I am writing to request that the thiopental which was wrongfully diverted by Mr. Harris to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services be returned immediately to its rightful owners, that is, that it be returned to us at Naari. Thank you in advance for your urgent assistance on this important matter. Sincerely, Prithi KochharCEO, Naari

3. 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 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.