Pressured Indian firm stops exporting lethal drugs


on 8 April 2011

After nearly a year of looking all over the world for thiopental sodium, a drug currently used to carry out executions in the USA, it seemed the Departments of Justice of several American states had found their source : Kayem Pharmaceuticals in Mumbai.
Orders were successfully delivered to Nebraska and South Dakota by the Indian company before London-based World Coalition member organisation Reprieve got wind of the story and jumped into action.

Reprieve’s direct action campaign gets results

A letter from Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith apparently alerted Kayem’s business manager to what the drug was being used for in the United States.
The drug also has uses for anaesthesia, and Smith’s letter to Kayem offered that the company “had perhaps believed the drugs were going to be used only to help treat prisoners, not to kill them”.
Following the announcement of a large press conference on the subject, also organized by Reprieve, and an audit by the Indian government, Kayem announced that they would no longer be selling the drug to the USA.

“In view of the sensitivity involved…”

A statement on Kayem’s website on April 8 read : “In view of the sensitivity involved… we voluntarily declare that  we as an Indian Pharma Dealer who cherishes the Ethos of Hinduism (A belief in even in non-living things as the creation of God) refrain ourselves from selling this drug where the purpose is purely for Lethal Injection.”
In response to the announcement, Reprieve called Kayem’s decision “excellent”, and urged all pharmaceutical companies worldwide to do the same and refuse to sell execution drugs to the United States.

US states seeking out other possibilities

As state governments in the US scramble to find alternatives, the spotlight has already fallen upon a Danish company, Lundbeck, who is the only current supplier of a related drug also used for executions.
According to Reprieve investigator Mia Foa, “Lundbeck has now effectively elected to become the primary supplier of drugs for US executions”.
Aware of the use of its drugs in the US, Lundbeck will face increasing pressure in the coming months from Reprieve and other groups to halt its sales.
These groups will thus put pressure on the US to rethink its death penalty system as a whole.

More articles