Health care company, Fresenius Kabi, has announced that it has put in place a comprehensive system of distribution controls to prevent its product from being used off-label to carry out executions by lethal injection.
The firm manufactures propofol, an anaesthetic which US death rows had recently begun to turn to following shortages of the barbiturates which had previously been used as part of the execution process.
In response to this development, Fresenius - which is currently the sole active supplier of propofol in the United States - has not only announced that it will not accept orders for the drug from US departments of correction, but has put in place similar requirements on all of its wholesalers and distributors.
The move means that propofol will remain available for legitimate medical use, but will be denied to US correctional facilities for off-label use in executions.
Missouri had announced in May that it was switching its execution protocol from the traditional three-drug 'cocktail' to a single dose of propofol - the same month as the state's Attorney General pushed for 19 new execution dates to be set. Other states were expected to follow Missouri's lead, as both sodium thiopental and pentobarbital - the barbiturates which had previously been used in lethal injections - were unavailable.
Maya Foa, Head of the Lethal Injection Project at the legal Charity Reprieve said: "Fresenius Kabi has gone to unprecedented lengths to ensure that its medicines are used for the purpose for which they were intended: to improve and save the lives of millions of patients across the USA, and not be abused in executions. The swift, ethical action which they have taken to prevent their involvement in the lethal injection drug trade is an outstanding example to other companies in their field. US correction departments need to understand that pharma companies do not want to see their products used in executions. Fresenius Kabi is leading the way in showing how the industry can put a stop to this grotesque abuse of medicines."