Reuters distributes, "Doctors pressure Hospira over execution drug," written by Ben Hirschler. It's via the Baltimore Sun.
An international group of 25 doctors demanded on Friday that U.S.-based Hospira take action to prevent its muscle relaxant drug pancuronium being used for executions in the United States.
There has been controversy about using prescription medicines for lethal injections in the last two years, and campaigners have succeeded in curbing supplies of some products, causing drug shortages that have slowed U.S. executions.
Hospira stopped making another drug, thiopental, last January, and Denmark's Lundbeck later restricted distribution of pentobarbital, which U.S. states that carry out the death penalty switched to when thiopental was not available.
Hospira, however, has not curbed supplies of pancuronium -- a decision consultant neurologist David Nicholl of Birmingham's City Hospital, England, and colleagues said was out of line with its corporate commitment to be "an ethical global citizen."
"It is time for Hospira to live up to those fine words, without affecting patients' care, by putting in place a restricted distribution system for pancuronium," they wrote in an open letter to The Lancet medical journal.
Nicholl and other doctors from Britain, Italy, Ireland, India, Australia and Saudi Arabia said there was a very real possibility that pancuronium, when used for executions, could cause extreme pain and suffering in a paralyzed prisoner.
Hospira, the sole supplier of the medicine, said it had regularly written to U.S. states making clear its opposition to use of its drugs in executions.
But Chief Executive Michael Ball said restricting distribution of pancuronium had to be considered carefully to avoid jeopardizing the health of patients who needed therapeutic access to the medicine, including inmates of prison hospitals.
"We continue to explore options around optimizing distribution of all of our products," Ball said in a response in The Lancet.
"US pharmaceutical firm Hospira under fire over use of its drugs in executions," by Ed Pilkington reporting from New York for the Guardian.
One of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, the Illinois-based firm Hospira, is coming under heavy pressure from the medical profession to tighten up its procedures to prevent the use of its drugs in US executions.
Twenty-five prominent doctors from the UK, Italy, India and Australia have published an open letter in the Lancet to Michael Ball, Hospira's chief executive. They urge him to take a more rigorous approach to the use of Hospira's trademarked drug Pancuronium in the triple cocktail of lethal injections used by many of the 34 states that still practise the death penalty.
"No responsible pharamceutical company should have anything to do with executions," the doctors say. They add that it is time for the company to impose restrictions on its disbribution system of the drug to prevent it ending up in the hands of executioners.
Pancuronium is an extremely effective muscle relaxant used widely by anaesthetists to prevent patients moving, for instance in the event of abdominal surgery. In many US states it is also used as the second of three lethal drugs to be administered to condemned prisoners.
First, a barbiturate is used to put prisoners to sleep; then, the muscle relaxant is given to stop them moving or screaming; finally, a third chemical, potassium, is injected to stop their heart.
The doctors who signed the open letter, led by David Nicholl, a neurologist at City Hospital in Birmingham, want to see Hospira following the example of Lundbeck, the Danish manufacturer of a barbiturate called pentobarbital that has been also used in US executions. Lundbeck last year introduced a strict end-user agreement that prevents the product finding its way into death chambers even via third parties.
This is the second time that Hospira has come under fire for the use of its drugs in judicial killings. A year ago it suspended all production in America of sodium thiopental, a barbiturate widely used as the first stage of the lethal cocktail, after it became clear that it could face penalties in Italy, where it was also manufacturing the sedative.
Supplies of the key ingredients of the lethal injection are already running low in several states, raising hopes among opponents of the death penalty that this might lead to de facto abolition. Last month the European Commission imposed Europe-wide restrictions on exports of key anaesthetics used to kill prisoners in the US.
Nicholl said that the aim was to debunk the myth that the method of execution was medically approved. "The myth has spread that lethal injections have the involvement of doctors and are therefore kinder and more humane. There is no evidence for that."
Related posts are in the lethal injection index. Notable posts include:
- European Union Steps Up Pressure With New Controls
- Lethal Injection Drug Commentary From India
- Lundbeck Protests Today's Scheduled Florida Execution
- More Roadblocks for Execution Drugs
- More on the Lundbeck Actions
- An Update on Foreign-Sourced Lethal Injection Drugs
- States Moving Quickly to Switch Execution Drug
- Letter From Europe
- Editorial Commentary on Lethal Injection
- Extended Coverage of the Hospira Announcement