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April 16 2011 | UNITED KINGDOM


U.K. bans exports of execution drugs to U.S. Is Denmark ready to act the same way?

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Associated Press

Britain bans exports of execution drugs to US

LONDON - Britain said Thursday it will block the export of three lethal injection drugs to the United States and is also urging a Europe-wide ban on American sales of the drugs.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said that a block on exports of pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride would be formalized in a few days. In November, Britain blocked exports of the sedative sodium thiopental for use in executions following a legal challenge from a human rights group.
"We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and are clear that British drugs should not be used to carry out lethal injections," Cable said. "Because of the importance and urgency of the situation this is an issue on which we felt we had to take the lead."
Britain has urged the European Commission to expand the export ban to all European Union nations, Cable added.
Reprieve, the London-based group for prisoner rights that sought the ban, welcomed the news but it said U.S. states imposing the death penalty via lethal injection are now turning to a Danish company, Lundbeck A/S, for supplies of pentobarbital.
Denmark's foreign minister said she will urge U.S. states such as Texas and Ohio to stop using that drug.
Pentobarbital is a sedative with a range of medical uses, including the treatment of epileptic seizures and other conditions that require some form of sedation. It is also often used for putting down animals. Since late last year, it has been used in the U.S. for lethal injections as supplies of sodium thiopental become scarce.
Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen said she cannot take direct action against Lundbeck because the drug is produced by a plant in Kansas.
Pentobarbital has been used to execute prisoners in Ohio and Oklahoma. Fellow U.S. states Mississippi and Arizona are also considering switching to the drug for lethal injections.
Lundbeck has written letters to U.S. prison authorities asking them not to use pentobarbital for lethal injections, but with little effect. The pharmaceutical company, whose best-sellers include drugs for the treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders, is under pressure from human rights groups to take stronger action, such as rewriting distribution contracts with clauses prohibiting sales of pentobarbital to U.S. prisons.
Lundbeck has rejected that idea, saying it would be impossible for distributors to track how every vial is used.
The company has said it sells about 50 million doses of pentobarbital a year, but has declined to give any breakdown of sales. Pentobarbital, it has said, accounts for a very small percentage of overall sales.
Pancuronium bromide is a muscle relaxant and potassium chloride is used to stop the heart and is sometimes used in abortion procedures.
Cable said that the government is satisfied that the export ban will not affect legitimate medical trade in the drugs.
AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng contributed to this report.


Gran Bretaña prohibirá la exportación de substancias para las ejecuciones

Londres, 15 abr.- Gran Bretaña prohibirá la exportación de substancias que se utilizan en EEUU para ejecutar a reclusos condenados a la pena capital, según el ministro británico de Empresa, Vince Cable.
Según el político liberaldemócrata, dentro de unos días, el Gobierno presentará al Parlamento un proyecto de ley por el que se prohíbe la exportación de pentobarbital, de bromuro de pancuronio y de cloruro de potasio.
"Somos contrarios a la pena de muerte en cualquier circunstancia y está absolutamente claro que no deberían utilizarse substancias fabricadas en Gran Bretaña en las inyecciones letales", dijo Cable, citado hoy por el diario The Guardian.
Según un informe parlamentario publicado en febrero, empresas británicas han vendido a EEUU desde el pasado verano substancias suficientes para la ejecución de un centenar de condenados a muerte.
El Ministerio de Empresa impuso el pasado noviembre controles de exportación al tiopental sódico, substancia que se usa como anestésico, tras descubrirse que una empresa londinense había vendido ese producto a las prisiones de los estados norteamericanos de Arizona y Georgia.
La ONG británica Reprieve, que lucha contra la pena de muerte en todo el mundo, afirma que los Estados norteamericanos que ejecutan a sus prisioneros mediante inyecciones letales recurren ahora a una empresa danesa, Lundbeck A/S, para el pentobarbital.
La ministra danesa de Asuntos Exteriores, Lene Espersen, ha asegurado no poder hacer nada contra Ludbeck porque produce esa substancia en una planta que tiene en Kansas


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