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Pfizer blocks sale of its drugs for use in lethal injections

Over 1,000 inmates in US prisons have been executed since 1982 using a lethal injection, according to Amnesty International
Paul Buck (AFP/File)
The move blocks off the last open-market source for obtaining drugs used in executions.

Pfizer pharmaceutical company on Friday announced new controls preventing the use of its drugs in lethal injections, the New York Times reported.

"Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve," and "strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment," the company said in a statement.

The move blocks off the last FDA-approved source for obtaining the drugs used in executions, the New York Times reports.

"Executing states must now go underground if they want to get hold of medicines for use in lethal injection," the Times quotes Maya Foa, who monitors drug companies for UK-based human rights group Reprieve.

Pfizer announced restrictions on the sale of seven barbiturates, sedatives, or other agents that can cause paralysis or heart failure to selected wholesalers. Distributors of these products will be subject to close monitoring and must declare that they will not re-sell the drugs to corrections departments.

More than 20 US and European drug manufacturers already have such restrictions in place, the New York Times reports, barring the sale of their products to corrections agencies on the grounds of moral or business reasons.

Timothy Clary (AFP/File)

Lawyers for inmates facing the death penalty argue that full transparency in the procurement of drugs used in lethal injections is necessary to ensure that they meet quality standards and will not cause undue suffering, the New York Times says.

According to Times, the majority of the states with the death penalty keep the sources of their drug procurement a secret.

Shortages have prompted officials in 32 states where the death penalty is in force to come up with untested new lethal "cocktails," which have been suspected of causing pain and suffering during recent botched executions.

On January 16, 2014, Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire took 26 minutes to die, and Arizona death row convict Joseph Wood took 117 minutes to die on July 23.

Last April, Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett took an agonizing 43 minutes to die and could be seen writhing in pain during the prolonged execution.

Lethal injection executions are expected to take 10 minutes, and in all three cases, the men could be seen gasping for air. The use of the controversial three-drug combination was upheld by the Supreme Court last year.

Some states have also approved alternative methods of execution, including the electric chair, firing squad, or gas chambers.

The number of executions carried out in the US has declined due to a variety of legal and political reasons, the New York Times reports, dropping to 28 in 2015 compared to 98 in 1999, according to figures from the Death Penalty Information Center.

(Staff with agencies)

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