Pfizer Takes A Stand Against Death Penalty By Blocking Its Drugs For Use In Lethal Injection Cocktails

Pfizer drug company has taken a stand by blocking the use of its drugs for use in lethal injections.

According to NBC News, Pfizer announced on Friday in a statement that it was taking steps to ensure that its products don’t wind up in the deadly cocktails states use to execute prisoners.

“Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve. Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.”

In its statement, Pfizer added that it is “enforcing a distribution restriction for specific products that have been part of, or considered by some states for their lethal injection protocols.”

Those seven products mentioned include pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride, idazolam, hydromorphone, rocuronium bromide, vecuronium bromide — and the powerful anesthetic propofol, which NBC News notes was the drug that resulted in the death of Michael Jackson.

Pfizer took the additional step to ensure that its drugs do not wind up state’s lethal cocktails by insisting that wholesalers and distributors “not resell these products to correctional institutions for use in lethal injections.”

In addition, local governments “must certify that products they purchase or otherwise acquire are used only for medically prescribed patient care and not for any penal purposes.”

Pfizer joins more than 20 U.S. and European drugmakers that have taken similar actions in recent weeks and months.

According to The New York Times, the drug companies took action against the death penalty, citing either moral or business reasons.

Maya Foa, who tracks drug companies for Reprieve, a London-based human rights advocacy group, said the move by drug companies is making it more difficult for states to acquire the drugs necessary to administer during an execution.

“With Pfizer’s announcement, all F.D.A.-approved manufacturers of any potential execution drug have now blocked their sale for this purpose. Executing states must now go underground if they want to get hold of medicines for use in lethal injection.”

With Pfizer’s announcement, the last remaining open market source of drugs used by states for executions is now closed, resulting in execution delays in several states.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-capital punishment Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said states still have options in finding the drugs used in executions.

He noted that states will still be able to buy chemicals by special order for executions from compounding pharmacies.

“Using compounding pharmacies is not going underground, they’re legitimate businesses.”

Two compounding pharmacies, The American Pharmacists Association and the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, have already told their members to stop making the chemicals used in lethal cocktails.

The New York Times reports that some states have tried to import drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration but were seized by federal agents.

In 2015, Texas and Arizona ordered shipments of sodium thiopental from India, but those shipments were seized by federal authorities.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the number of executions has declined to just 28 in 2015, compared with 98 in 1999. Much of the decline can be attributed to companies like Pfizer that have taken a stand against using their drugs for lethal injections.

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers]