Hospira

German drug company faces involvement in US executions


June 8, 2012 Source : http://www.reprieve.org.uk

A German drug company, Fresenius Kabi, may become the prime supplier of execution drugsto US death rows following the move by the State of Missouri to use propofol in lethal injections last month.

The switch to propofol, which was announced by Missouri prison on the 17th May, is a response to the unavailability of the previously used execution drugs, sodium thiopental and pentobarbital. Other States, also unable to procure the old execution drugs, are now likely to follow suit.

Propofol, a widely used anaesthetic agent, is manufactured by two companies in the US: German pharmaceutical company, Fresenius Kabi (under the tradename, Diprivan), and Hospira. Ongoing problems at Hospira’s plant mean that Fresenius Kabi has been the principle supplier of the drug to the US for over 18 months.

Missouri was forced to change its protocol following action by European pharmaceutical manufacturer, Lundbeck, and the European Commission to prevent the use of European medicines in executions.

Reprieve is in dialogue with the CEO of Fresenius Kabi, Rainer Baule, on this issue. Reprieve worked closely with Lundbeck on the distribution controls put in place to prevent the use of Lundbeck’s pentobarbital in executions and propose that Fresenius Kabi take similar steps to prevent the use of their medicines in lethal injections in the US.

Reprieve is also in contact with the German government on this issue. The German government is vigorously opposed to capital punishment and has previously refused an official request from US authorities for sodium thiopental for use in executions.

Following the protocol change, Missouri DOC requested that execution dates be set for nine death row prisoners.

Maya Foa, Head of Reprieve’s Lethal Injection Project, says: “This is an extremely disturbing development for any pharmaceutical company, but particularly one based in Europe. Fresenius Kabi’s motto is ‘Caring For Life’; it would be disastrous for the company if involvement in executions were to make a mockery of this noble commitment.

No one wants to see German drugs used to execute people. Fortunately for Fresenius, there are simple and effective ways that the company could prevent prisons from using their drugs in executions. Fresenius must act quickly, however, otherwise they risk becoming the primary facilitator of capital punishment in the USA.”

US – US hospitals face medicine shortages as crucial supplies diverted to executions


May 8, 2012 Sourcehttp://www.reprieve.org.uk

US hospitals are facing shortages of a key medicine used in surgical anaesthesia as death rows stockpile the same drug for use in executions, new figures have shown.

Prisons across the USA are holding large stockpiles of pancuronium bromide, a paralysing agent designed to relax muscles during surgery, in order to use it as part of a three-drug execution ‘cocktail.’

The US Food and Drug administration (FDA) has repeatedly warned that the country is facing shortages of the medicine, which date back as far as 2010. Yet various Departments of Corrections, which don’t use the drug for medicinal purposes, but only in executions, are hoarding large quantities. Virginia alone, for example, holds 60 vials of the drug, enough to treat roughly 50-60 patients in emergency medical operations.

The executing states’ behaviour is particularly controversial as the use of pancuroniumwhich slowly suffocates the prisoner is not even necessary in executions, as a third drug is employed to stop the heart. The second stage is purely cosmetic, paralysing the prisoner so that onlookers can’t see any signs that they might be in distress. Worse still, by paralysing the prisoner, the use of pancuronium creates a serious risk that they will be left unable to signal that the first drug, an anaesthetic, has failed to work – and therefore will die in excruciating pain, unable to move or even to speak.

Legal action charity Reprieve is calling on manufacturers to put in place procedures to ensure that the drug reaches only legitimate, medical users, and is not diverted to execution chambers – which will also help to reduce the shortages hospitals currently face.

Pancuronium bromide is manufactured by Hospira, a company which has repeatedly stated its opposition to the use of its medicines in executions. Thus far, however, it has taken no active steps to prevent this use. The result is that Hospira’s pancuronium bromide is currently unavailable for the doctors who have legitimate medical need for it, while executioners apparently have ample supplies.  

Reprieve investigator, Maya Foa said: “Regardless of your views on the death penalty, it cannot be right that hospitals are facing shortages of medicines while executing chambers sit on huge stockpiles. These drugs are being diverted from their legitimate, medical use in order to kill. Manufacturers like Hospira must put in place controls to ensure this is not allowed to happen.”