LONDON (AP) — 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.”
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.
foreign minister said she will urge U.S.
states such as Texas and Ohio to stop using that drug.
Ohio buys its pentobarbital
from a U.S.
distributor, and has not heard directly from the Danish government, said
prisons spokesman Carlo LoParo, who declined to comment further.
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
Pancuronium bromide is a muscle relaxant and potassium
chloride is used to stop the heart and is sometimes used in abortion
Cable said that the government is satisfied that the export
ban will not affect legitimate medical trade in the drugs.