Pharmaceutical Company Restricts Access to Drug Used in U.S. Executions

A pharmaceutical company that manufactures pentobarbital (distributed under the brand name Nembutal) has announced that it will significantly restrict its distribution system to prevent the drug's use in lethal injections in the United States. Lundbeck Inc. announced in a statement that it “adamantly opposes the distressing misuse of our product in capital punishment.” Lundbeck will review orders before providing clearance for shipping pentobarbital and will deny orders from prisons located in states currently carrying out executions. Purchasers must also provide a written agreement that they will not redistribute the drug. Lundbeck's Chief Executive Ulf Wiinberg added, "After much consideration, we have determined that a restricted distribution system is the most meaningful means through which we can restrict the misuse of Nembutal. While the company has never sold the product directly to prisons and therefore can’t make guarantees, we are confident that our new distribution program will play a substantial role in restricting prisons’ access to Nembutal for misuse as part of lethal injection."  Almost all the states with the death penalty are currently using or intended to use pentobarbital in their executions.  This decision by Lundbeck may require a major change in the execution protocols of states and the federal government.

(D. Jolly, "Danish Company Blocks Sale of Drug for U.S. Executions," New York Times, July 1, 2011).  See Lethal Injection.