Press conference in Delhi: US execution chambers want Indian drugs to kill their prisoners. Legal NGO Reprieve warns of the risks.

December 15, 2011

Maya Foa, representing the UK legal NGO Reprieve, has come to India urgently to warn pharmaceutical companies of deceptive practices being used to implicate them in lethal injections in America. 

Domestic shortages of execution drugs mean the US is now seeking supplies abroad. Sodium thiopental is not used for medical purposes in the US, and the last remaining American manufacturer of the drug pulled out of the market in January. US prisons are now looking to foreign manufacturers to provide drugs to fuel their execution chambers.

It’s a purely exploitative move on the part of the American executing states: the US has everything to gain and the Indian manufacturer everything to lose. The drugs are very cheap so there is no financial profit to be made. Each execution takes just 5 grams, costing no more than 175 rupees, with only perhaps 40 executions a year: the entire market is worth no more than 7,000 rupees, or $130 per annum. This is the reason no US company makes the drug – it is off patent and no longer worthwhile. Meanwhile, the cost to a company’s reputation – not to mention the cost of human lives – is unthinkably high.

The US first went to Europe. The negative publicity to one company, Dream Pharma, caused it great commercial loss.  Another company implicated in what came to be seen as the “death drug” scandal, Lundbeck, saw its corporate image plummet 50% in a week, provoking divestment by some of its shareholders.

Last month, Indian manufacturer, Naari, became the latest victim of the US execution drug scramble. Acting on behalf of the executing states, an Indian purchaser, Chris Harris, represented that Naari’s drugs were going to Zambia for medical use; instead, Harris diverted them to Nebraska prison for use in executions. Naari is committed to providing drugs which improve the health and lives of patients all over the world; they are ‘horrified’ that the US wants to use their drugs to end lives instead and have initiated legal action in Nebraska to force the return of their drugs.

The deception practiced on Naari not only threatens the good name of a respected company, but also undermines efforts to ensure that medicines reach countries where they are urgently needed to save lives, such as in Africa.

Reprieve is meeting with government officials, pharmaceutical companies, lawyers and human rights organisations in India to find ways to prevent the Indian pharmaceutical market from being forced to collaborate in executions in the US against their will.

WHO:             Maya Foa, Reprieve

WHAT:           Press conference on the use of Indian drugs in US executions

WHERE:        Press Club of India, 1 Raisina Road, New Delhi

WHEN:           16.00, Thursday 15th December

For further information please contact Maya Foa (maya.foa@reprieve.org.uk); 0091 876 715 8765.