Pharma firm Lundbeck wins ethical award for stopping use of drugs in executions

March 29, 2012

Image of drugs

Lundbeck has become the first recipient of a new Corporate Social Responsibility Award for Ethical Leadership in the Pharmaceutical Industry.

The Award, which was presented to Lundbeck’s Chief Executive Officer, Ulf Wiinberg by legal action charity Reprieve, is given in recognition of the steps the company has taken to prevent the use of its medicines in executions in the USA.

Lundbeck became the subject of much controversy in early 2011 when it emerged that a number of US states had begun to use pentobarbital, a drug manufactured exclusively by Lundbeck in the US, in lethal injections. The Danish pharmaceutical company took unprecedented action to stop US departments of corrections using their medicines to execute prisoners by restricting the distribution of the product.

The distribution change, which came into force on July 1st 2011, means that now only legitimate medical users of the drug are permitted to purchase pentobarbital in the US. It is no longer available to prisons for use in executions.   It is the first action of its kind, but the success of the venture means that other pharmaceutical companies which find themselves in a similar situation may follow suit.

Lundbeck has also become the first company to sign a new ‘Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath,’ pledging its commitment to medical ethics and corporate social responsibility. Under the Oath, companies pledge:

“We dedicate our work to developing and distributing pharmaceuticals to the service of humanity; we will practice our profession with conscience and dignity; the right to health of the patient will be our first consideration; we condemn the use of any of our pharmaceuticals in the execution of human beings.”

Reprieve is urging other ethical pharmaceutical companies to follow Lundbeck’s excellent lead by signing up to the Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath, and taking the necessary steps to ensure that their medicines are used to advance health and wellness, not for the purposes of executions.

Reprieve Investigator, Maya Foa, said: “Lundbeck’s action has changed the landscape of corporate social responsibility in the pharmaceutical industry. Many pharmaceutical companies lament the use of their medicines in executions – Lundbeck didn’t just lament it, they took active steps to prevent it. In doing so, the company proved that pharmaceutical manufacturers don’t have to be complicit in capital punishment; they have a choice as to whether they facilitate executions by supplying prisons with lethal injection drugs. In short, they were true to the values of their profession, and this Award is testament to their efforts.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082

2. Earlier this week, Lundbeck also signed Reprieve’s new ‘Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath,’ under which pharma firms pledge not to become involved in executions by lethal injection:

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.