The Legal charity Reprieve, met yesterday (6 June 2011) with the Chief Executive of Lundbeck, the pharmaceutical company which has been supplying lethal injection drugs to US death rows.
During the meeting, Lundbeck's CEO, Ulf Wiinberg, told Reprieve's representative Maya Foa that the company has reconsidered its position - which the charity had said from the beginning was untenable. Wiinberg now acknowledges that there are steps that the company could take to restrict the distribution of pentobarbital (also known as Nembutal and used in the control of epileptic seizures)) so that it is not delivered to execution chambers in the US, but still reaches legitimate users.
While the company would not make concrete assurances, Reprieve says it is now actively considering iits proposals and has hired 'external consultants' to assess the most effective strategies.
Following fierce criticism from press, politicians, NGOs and shareholders, Lundbeck has promised to be more transparent in their future communications on this matter. Wiinberg assured Reprieve that this time a full independent consultancy would be published.
The Danish pension fund Unipension recently sold their shares in Lundbeck, citing concerns over the use of the company's drugs in executions and its unwillingness to engage with investors on the issue.
Unipension told the Associated Press: "It has not been possible for Unipension to get a detailed report regarding Lundbeck's efforts to ensure that its products are not used in an unwanted manner […] It has been our impression that Lundbeck did not want to engage in a genuine dialogue with us as an investor."
Following the meeting with Lundbeck's CEO, Maya Foa said: "At last we are beginning to see some positive movement from Lundbeck on this issue. But too much time has already been lost - not to mention too many lives. Thirteen people have been killed so far using their drugs, and another seven are set to be executed by the end of this month - the timeframe in which Lundbeck promises to reconsider the issue"
She continued: "Given the drugs that Lundbeck have sold since we first warned the company that 3,000 prisoners faced execution with pentobarbital in the US, scores of lives could be taken. Lundbeck must not only stop the supply immediately, but also comply with all Reprieve's requests to repair the damage that has been done. They cannot repurchase their reputation for a mess of pottage; they have an obligation to take immediate and effective action."