Pfizer bars lethal injection use of its drugs

by Elizabeth A. Elliott

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Pfizer Drug released a statement May 13 saying that it will enforce a restriction on the distribution of drugs considered by some states for their lethal injection protocols. The drugs in question include pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride, propofol, midazolam, hydromorphone, rocuronium bromide and vecuronium bromide. These drugs are FDA-approved and also used in surgery or for treating various illnesses.

The statement from the company reads in part: "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."

According to the company statement, Pfizer will sell these drugs to a "select group of wholesalers, distributors and direct purchasers but under the condition they will not resell the products to correctional institutions for use in lethal injections."

This block means it may be more difficult for states with the death penalty in place to carry out executions. For Nebraska, which votes in November to reverse the repeal of the death penalty, it is another blow.

"Regardless of how the public votes in November, this is another sign Nebraska will never be able to carry out an execution. Our death penalty is broken beyond repair," said Dan Parsons in a press release for Retain a Just Nebraska, the committee working to ensure the death penalty is replaced by life without parole.

According to Retain a Just Nebraska, in 2011 and 2015 Nebraska tried to get execution drugs from non-FDA approved sources. Federal authorities thwarted both attempts. It has been nearly 20 years since Nebraska has carried out the death penalty.

Thirty-one states with the death penalty use lethal injection as a primary method. The American Pharmacists Association, International Academy of Compounding Pharmacies and the American Medical Association also oppose their members' participation in executions.

[Elizabeth A. Elliott is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is]

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