Drug Maker 'Horrified' It's Being Used in Executions

Pentobarbital was intended as an epilepsy drug

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 8, 2011 12:04 PM CDT

(Newser) – A Danish pharmaceutical company says it's desperately seeking a way to stop US prisons from executing people with its epilepsy drug Nembutal. “We are horrified at this fact, and we are looking at ways to prevent prisons from getting this drug,” a spokesman for Lundbeck A/S said. “At first we considered stopping production of this product but there is a medical need for it and hospitals pleaded with us not to.”

The drug, generically used as pentobarbital, was originally designed for epilepsy, and has also been used to euthanize animals. But thanks to a shortage of sodium thiopental, some states have been trying to sub it in to their lethal injection cocktails. “When we first learned of this misuse of our drug we went public and protested strongly to the relevant prison governors and state politicians,” Lundbeck’s CEO tells the Wall Street Journal. Nembutal makes up only a tiny portion of Lundbeck’s sales.

This Oct. 24, 2001 file photo shows the death chamber at the state prison in Jackson, Ga.
This Oct. 24, 2001 file photo shows the death chamber at the state prison in Jackson, Ga.   (AP Photo/Ric Feld, File)
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