Pfizer joins other biopharma companies in banning use of its drugs in executions

16 May 2016

Pfizer has joined a growing list of pharmaceutical manufacturers banning the use of its drugs in executions, such as lethal injections.

So far, more than 20 companies in the US and Europe have issued a banning order on their drugs being used to end human life, and now Pfizer, one of the largest biopharma companies in the world, has added its name to the list.

For years, US state executions have been carried out by means of lethal injection using certain drugs, but now, as companies ban correctional facilities from purchasing such drugs, executioners are running out of supplies.

According to the New York Times, the closing off of access to supplies of regulated pharmaceuticals has driven these correctional facilities to seek new sources of drugs for lethal injection, ranging from experimental drugs that have led to a number of failed executions, to shipping in drugs illegally from outside of the US.

In a statement published over the weekend, Pfizer said of its decision: “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.”

Praise from human rights groups

No doubt pushing Pfizer to join other companies in banning the sale of drugs for capital punishment has been the vocal opposition to the practice from human rights groups like Reprieve, but also the potential financial harm the company could face.

For example, a botched execution using one of company’s drugs could see it face legal or financial damages.

In a statement, Reprieve’s director, Maya Foa, said: “Pfizer’s actions cement the pharmaceutical industry’s opposition to the misuse of medicines.

“Instead of passing secrecy laws intended to undermine the safeguards put in place by these companies, executing states should respect the legitimate commercial interests of the pharmaceutical industry and agree to stop misusing their medicines in lethal injection executions.”

Prisoner in jail image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic