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S&D Group calls for ban on “export of death”

By Alexandria Pešić , 31-Jan-2011

The European Parliament’s Socialist and Democrats (S&D) group wants to ban the export of drugs used to execute death row inmates.

MEP Claude Moraes, the S&D group’s spokesperson on civil liberties, told in-PharmaTechnologist.com: “I am actively supporting this ban on the ‘export of death.’”

He called on European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding, who is in charge of fundamental human rights legislation, and international trade commissioner Karel De Gucht to reaffirm the EU’s fierce opposition to capital punishment.

Moraes comments follow just days after the UK anti-capital punishment group, Reprieve, named Dream Pharma, a company run from the back of a driving school in west London, as the firm responsible for supplying several institutions in the US.

Reprieve said Dream had supplied the Arizona State Prison with 150 vials of the anaesthetic sodium thiopental, 180 vials of potassium chloride and 450 vials of pancuronium bromide which, it said, is sufficient to kill 10 prisoners.

It later revealed that the State of Arkansas also bought drugs from the UK, and on January 6, 1,042 vials of sodium thiopental were provided to California by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after being imported from Dream Pharma.

EU a death penalty-free land

Moraes said “the EU is a death penalty-free land,” referring to the European charter of fundamental rights, which outlaws capital punishment in the EU.

On that basis, he said EU countries must not tolerate European companies – such as Dream Pharma - exporting lethal injection drugs, and this includes both private individuals and EU governments.

Moraes argued: “This is a case of a private individual who is marketing instruments of ‘capital punishment’ to a country which practices the death penalty.

There is no way of knowing how widespread this issue is, however we must investigate it and ensure that a ban comes into play immediately.”

Dream Pharma did not respond to in-PharmaTechnologist’s request for interview.

Hospira stops production of 'death drug'

Last week, US drug firm, Hospira, announced that it would discontinue the manufacture of Pentothal, which was found to have been used as part of a lethal cocktail of drugs in US executions.

Speaking at the time Tareta Adams of Hospira, said the firm “never condoned” the drug's use in capital punishment, explaining that: “when the product was available, Hospira did sell the product to departments of corrections, but for medical use.”

Hospira went on to say that because it is unable to guarantee that wholesalers will stop selling the anesthetic to US correctional institutions it has decided to end production.

Lundbeck's Pentobarbital used to kill

In related news, it emerged this weekend that Pentobarbital, a drug made by Danish pharmaceutical company H Lundbeck, is also being used to put inmates to death by authorities in the US.

Lundbeck spokesperson, Anders Schroll, told in-PharmaTechnlogist.com’s: “It was a shock for us when we became aware of it” adding that the firm has since sent letters to the States of Oklahoma and Ohio, condemning the practice and urging the jails to stop the misuse.

Schroll said that Lundbeck has never sold Pentobarbital to the US for use in executions. “We would never actively participate in such activity,” he said. “We stand for helping to improve people's lives.”

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