NHS supplier risking complicity in nine US executions

October 8, 2014

A major supplier to the NHS is at risk of becoming involved in American executions, after Alabama altered its lethal injection ‘cocktail’ to include a drug for which they are the only US supplier yet to put in place sufficient distribution controls.

Mylan pharmaceuticals, which describes itself as a “leading developer and supplier of generic medicines [to] wholesalers and throughout the National Health Service,”  is a US Government-approved manufacturer of rocuronium bromide, a paralysing agent which Alabama now plans to use as the second part of a three-stage lethal injection process.

The paralysing agent is a particularly concerning element of the process, as it leaves the prisoner unable to speak or move, and therefore can mask the effects of a botched execution, in which the anaesthetic has failed.

Mylan is the only US-approved maker of the drug which has not responded to calls from stakeholders to put in place distribution controls to prevent its use in executions, making it the easiest source from which Alabama will be able to obtain it.  As a result, legal charity Reprieve has warned Mylan that it may only be a matter of time before the state obtains their product, and uses it to kill.  The state’s attorney general’s office is already seeking to set execution dates for nine people, in the wake of the adoption of Alabama’s new lethal injection ‘protocol.’

Despite being notified of the issue in October of last year, Mylan has failed to establish controls which would ensure that their products can still reach legitimate, medical users, but not executioners – a model which has been successfully established by many other major pharmaceutical companies.

In a letter sent to Mylan on September 30th, Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty team warns the company that it is “is the only FDA-approved manufacturer of rocuronium bromide which has no controls in place to prevent it being sold and used in executions in the USA,” and explains that there is therefore “a very real risk that Mylan may soon become the go-to provider of execution drugs for States across the country.”

However, she also explains that “there are simple and effective controls that a company like Mylan can put in place to ensure its medicines are sold for legitimate medical purposes, and not sold to prisons for use in lethal injection executions,” adding that  “Over a dozen manufacturers have put such controls in place.”

Commenting, Maya Foa said: “Mylan is the only company we have worked with which has so far failed to take any concrete steps to prevent its medicines from being used to end the lives of prisoners in the USA. The NHS should think carefully about supporting a company which is apparently happy to see its medicines used in brutal executions.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166