Preventing exports of lethal drugs from Europe to the US

on 22 January 2011

The submission, which was initiated by World Coalition member Penal Reform International, comes after the revelation that Jeffery Landgrin had been executed in Arizona using sodium thiopental that was produced in Europe and exported from Britain by Archimedes Pharma.
The US is currently seeking sources of the lethal injection drug from Europe as a nationwide shortage is preventing several states from executing their death row inmates.
The submission is seeking to add sodium thiopental to Annex III of EU Council Regulation 1236/2005 which makes it illegal to “trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
Amending Annex III to include sodium thiopental will subject it to stringent export controls and ensure that the drug is not used to execute a human being.

Catch-all clause

The submission also recommends adding a ‘torture-death penalty end-use catch-all’ clause in the Regulation, which would allow EU Governments to prohibit, on a case-by-case basis, “the trade of any item not listed in the Annexes of the Regulation but that clearly have no practical use other than for the purposes of capital punishment; or where there are reasonable grounds to believe that such items would be used for the purposes of capital punishment”.
This catch-all safeguard will capture the two remaining drugs in the traditional three drug cocktail, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, as well as pentobarbital. This last drug that is often used by veterinarians to put-down animals was used as a replacement execution drug by the state of Oklahoma late last year.
The catch-all safeguard will not interfere with trade that has a legitimate medical purpose.

Scramble for sodium thiopental

Various states in the US including Arizona, Oklahoma and California are currently seeking sodium thiopental.
According to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, the state of California is seeking the export of the drug from countries as far away as Pakistan. Texas, despite being well stocked with sodium thiopental, has refused to share with other states.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the only US-based provider of sodium thiopental, Hospira, has decided to stop manufacturing the drug. The company had stopped production in the US and has now given up on plans to transfer it to Italy.


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