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JULY 15, 2002
9:56 AM
CONTACT:  National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
David Elliot, NCADP Communications Director
202-543-9577 x16 cell: 202-607-7036
New Report Examines Lethal Injection Drugs
New report ties drugs' origin to pharmaceutical companies in the United States; companies asked to form safeguards to prevent their drugs from being used improperly

WASHINGTON - July 15 - The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty today released a report entitled "Drug Companies and Their Role in Aiding Executions" and called upon the nation's manufacturers and distributors of lethal injection drugs to take steps to prevent their drugs from being used in executions conducted via lethal injection.

"Drug Companies and Their Role in Aiding Executions" traces the history and present use of lethal injection drugs in executions, reports on what can go wrong during the lethal injection process and lists the companies that produce lethal injection drugs, their corporate officers and their contact information.

The report also discusses medical guidelines regarding doctor participation in executions and the prescribing of drugs for executions and gives examples of how lethal injection drugs are obtained by prison officials. Finally, the report contains 10 recommendations that manufacturers of lethal injection drugs should implement to make sure that their products are not used in executions.

"This report will educate the public about the role pharmaceutical companies play in the execution process," said NCADP Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins. "We hope to engage the corporate sector in a productive dialogue about ways to prevent their products from being used to take human lives."

Hawkins said the report has two immediate goals: to convince pharmaceutical companies to speak out against the use of their drugs in executions and to take steps to prevent their products from falling into the hands of prison officials who oversee executions. Already, one leading manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories, Inc., which manufactures sodium thiopental, has issued a statement requesting "that this product not be used in capital punishment procedures.

"It is important to understand that the three drugs used in the lethal injection process are prescription drugs," Hawkins said."One of the drugs is a controlled substance and the other two are 'prescription only.' It is a violation of medical ethics for doctors or other medical professionals to prescribe drugs for the purpose of conducting an execution. But if these drugs are not being prescribed, then how are prison officials obtaining them?"

Of the 38 death penalty states in the U.S., 37 use lethal injection as the sole or optional method of execution. "Drug Companies and Their Role in Aiding Executions" discusses problems that have accompanied lethal injection executions, including the lack of suitable veins, clogged intravenous lines and incorrect dosage levels that can cause the first lethal injection drug (sodium thiopental) to wear off while the others take effect.

Hawkins noted that use of lethal injection has its roots in Nazi Germany, which used the process to put thousands of people to death. The minority of countries around the globe that have retained the death penalty increasingly are following the U.S. example and switching to lethal injection. These countries include Guatemala, the Philippines, and the United Arab Emirates. China, which leads the world in executions, recently announced its intention to follow the U.S. model and switch to lethal injection.

"The increasing use of lethal injection makes this issue just not relevant to the domestic United States but of concern to human rights activists around the globe," Hawkins said. "It is fundamentally a human rights issue and pharmaceutical companies that produce lethal injection drugs must be held accountable for the use of their products. We urge these companies to take immediate steps to stop their products from being used to kill human beings."

The seven publicly-held companies targeted by NCADP include Abbott Laboratories, Inc., based in Abbott Park, Ill.; American Pharmaceutical Partners, Inc., based in Los Angeles; AmerisourceBergen, based in Chesterbrook, Pa.; Baxter International Inc, based in Deerfield, Ill.; Cardinal Health, based in Dublin, Ohio; Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, based in St. Davids, Penn; and Gensia Sicor Pharmaceuticals, Inc., based in Irvine, Ca.

To read "Drug Companies and Their Role in Aiding Executions," please visit

To download a print-friendly version of the report, please visit

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty was founded in 1976 and is the only fully-staffed national organization devoted specifically to abolishing the death penalty. NCADP is comprised of more than 100 local, state, national and international affiliates.


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