Thursday, May 26, 2016
In 2009, several companies that provided drugs used in executions began refusing delivery of those drugs to US prisons. One by one, primarily European drug companies have refused to market drugs used in executions to penal institutions. On May 7th, Pfizer announced that it would no longer make drugs used in executions available for that purpose. Pfizer was the last company manufacturing the drugs that made them available to prisons. Pfizer also announced that when selling the drugs for other purposes, buyers will be obligated to agree that the drugs will not be resold for purposes of lethal injection. According to the NY Times, Pfizer was the last remaining open source of the drugs, leading executioners to revert to other means of obtaining them.
States employing the death penalty refuse to disclose the source of the drugs and in at least one case, an investigation is underway to determine how prison officials obtained drugs to be used for an execution, only to discover they had purchased the wrong drug. In other cases, states ordering the drugs from India saw the drugs seized by the FDA.
Pfizer explained that its prohibition on prison sales of the lethal injection drugs was motivated by business and medical factors and not political ones. The company explained that their drugs are intended to save lives. The Heritage Foundation, however, accused the company of conceding to political pressure.
No matter what the motivation, US executions have dropped from 98 in 1999 to 28 in 2015. For more information, the Death Penalty Information Center details efforts to curtail executions as well as state efforts to obtain lethal injection drugs and other efforts to revive previously defunct methods of execution, including firing squads. The Center's website contains information on the ACLU's efforts to force states to disclose their source of lethal injection drugs now that the major corporations are refusing sale of their drugs for that purpose. In addition, the Center is a resource on other concerns surrounding the use of capital punishment.