Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pfizer Bans Drugs for Lethal Injection: The End of Capital Punishment?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pfizer Bans Drugs for Lethal Injection: The End of Capital Punishment?

Article excerpt

Pfizer, a major pharmaceutical company, has introduced stricter controls on its drugs, aimed at curbing their use in lethal injections.

The move, according to Reprieve, a human rights non-profit, means that all 25 FDA-approved manufacturers of drugs potentially used for executions have imposed bans on their sale for that purpose.

While the move has met with widespread applause from death penalty opponents, its practical import may be limited, even as it marks another milestone along what many observers regard as the inexorable decline of state-sanctioned execution.

"What Pfizer has done is made clear that it, along with the rest of pharmaceutical companies, is committed to ensuring that its medicines are not misused for killing prisoners," says Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, in a telephone interview with The Christian Science Monitor.

"The major pharmaceutical companies have ... expressed their views that medicine designed to save lives and make lives better should not be used by the state to take lives," he says.

In a statement explaining its decision, Pfizer echoes these sentiments, describing its products as designed to "enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve" and objecting to their use "as lethal injections for capital punishment."

Specifically, the company is restricting the sale of seven drugs used by states in their administration of lethal injections, demanding that distributors and purchasers undertake a commitment not to resell to correctional institutions for use in executions.

Any government purchasers will have to declare that the intended use is only for "medically prescribed patient care," not to be used in any kind of punishment.

"Pfizer will consistently monitor the distribution of these seven products, act upon findings that reveal noncompliance, and modify policies when necessary to remain consistent with our stated position against the improper use of our products in lethal injections," reads the company's statement.

The move comes at a time when the death penalty seems to be spiraling ever downward to its own demise.

The number of death sentences issued has declined every year but four since 1998. …

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