Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck has objected to the use of pentobarbital for execution of people by lethal injection.
Pentobarbital, which is an epilepsy drug, has been used in 23 executions in the US this year. Lundbeck said that using pentobarbital for executions is a distressing misuse of its medication, according to a report in medicalnewstoday.com.
The state of Virginia authorities obtained the drug pentobarbital before Lundbeck could impose restrictions over the distribution of the drug. It is an attempt to make sure the drug is not used to perform executions in prisons.
We're in the business to improve people's lives, so the use of pentobarbital to end people's lives contradicts everything that we're in business to do, Matt Flesch, Lundbeck spokesman, told BBC in an interview.
In the U.S. 34 out of 50 states allow capital punishment. It becomes difficult for prison authorities to find the right drugs for their lethal injection all the time, and hence they go for substitute drugs.
Many pharmaceutical companies are trying their best to make sure that their products are not used as a component of lethal injections.
According to the report, lethal injections mostly consist of three drugs, all three with different purposes. First to knock the prisoner out, second to paralyze him/her, and the third to stop the heart.
The whole idea of paralyzing the convict is to mask any signs in case the first drug fails, say experts. In that case, death becomes extremely painful they say.
Sodium thiopental, manufactured by Hospira, was originally used for leaving the prisoner unconscious. However, the company stopped producing the drug in the U.S. The next choice was Dream Pharma, a British company, for the same drug. In 2010, British authorities banned its export and the U.S. states started using Lundbeck's pentobarbital from then on.
The production of pentobarbital, known under the brand name Nembutal, cannot be stopped, says Lundbeck, stating that it is an essential medicine for treating severe epilepsy.
Lundbeck says that now customers will have to confirm in writing that they will not use the drug for executions, to prevent the drug from reaching prisons.
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, Lundbeck's CEO said.