The case of death row inmate Troy Davis has sparked anger and emotion from many, including pharmaceutical companies who make the drugs that are now being used for lethal injection. In January 2011 the only US sodium thiopental manufacturer, Hospira, ceased manufacturing the drug used in administering death penalties.
When this happened the states started to buy the drugs from European companies, many of whom don’t endorse the death penalty, and this has caused a firestorm. Some are arguing that the European Union impose strict controls on drugs used in lethal injections to prevent companies from countries that don’t support the death penalty from being participants.
Pentobarbital, one of the three drugs set to be used to kill Davis, was bought from the Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck before its July announcement banning the use. In July 2011, Lundbeck Inc. demanded that U.S. distributors sign an agreement stating they will not make pentobarbital available for prisons using it for lethal injections. The dose used in Troy Davis was purchased before July.
An Indian pharmaceutical company Kayem stopped making Sodium Thiopental when they discovered it was being used for lethal injection in the United States and many others have followed.
If drug companies ban the use of their substances for the purposes of lethal injection, states will have to rely on the stashes they have (most about 12 doses) but they may be unable to get extra doses.
Many are now lobbying the European Union (EU) to impose stringent control to prevent EU companies from being complicit in future executions. It’s a strong point: for a country that doesn’t endorse executions, why should their drugs be used for lethal injection?
Many of us felt this was a tragic and seriously flawed case. But if anything, the execution of Troy Davis will change the ability to obtain the drugs for lethal injection that come from the EU so that countries who don’t endorse death by lethal injection don’t have to be participants.