Prisons using lethal injection as a means of execution may find their supplies running dry.
Lundbeck, the Danish manufacturer of Nembutal, a drug often used in lethal injections within the United States, announced today that it will require distributors to sign an agreement that they will not sell the drug to prisons. Nembutal is the trade name of pentobarbital, a heavy sedative that is used in animal euthanasia, and is often the first of three drugs used in lethal injection. The company stressed that it only wishes for Nembutal to be used for therapeutic purposes, and considers its role in lethal injection to be “misuse”. The death penalty was outlawed in Denmark in 1978.
Lundbeck’s declaration is not the first of its kind. Last year, the United Kingdom forbade its pharmacies from selling drugs for the purpose of executions.
Sodium thiopental was often used in lethal injections prior to January of this year, when the drug’s only U.S. manufacturer, Hospira Inc., stopped producing it due to pressure from human rights groups. The unavailability of sodium thiopental prompted many prisons to begin using Nembutal.
While Lundbeck’s actions will restrict the sale of Nembutal, it will still continue to be sold in the U.S. Therefore, given the American free market, prisons may still be able to get it from a third party. It remains to be seen if the new restrictions will have much effect on the American justice system.