Pfizer Says Its Drugs Cannot Be Used For Lethal Injections

Joining 20 other drug companies

The pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer announced today that it will no longer allow its drugs to be distributed and used for executions. The company now joins 20 other American and European drug makers who have already made this decision, according to The New York Times.

This announcement puts states that use lethal injection in an even tighter bind than they were in before, as chemicals for execution become harder and harder to source. Pfizer told The Times that its decision came from the company’s principal business models: “Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve,” and “strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.”

Last year, Pfizer acquired the drug company Hospira, which makes seven drugs that have been used in execution: barbiturates, sedatives, as well as other drugs that induce paralysis or heart failure. However, how many or what percentage of these drugs were used for executions is hard to figure out since they have so many other approved medical uses. Hospira had in the past tried to stop state prisons from using its drugs for lethal reasons but didn’t have much success.

Partly because of the many drug companies that have already agreed to this, in addition to other political factors, executions in the United States are on the decline. There were 28 in 2015, compared to 98 in 1999.

[ The New York Times ]

Claire Maldarelli

Claire Maldarelliis the Science Editor at Popular Science. She has a particular interest in brain science, the microbiome, and human physiology. In addition to Popular Science, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scientific American, and Scholastic’s Science World and Super Science magazines, among others. She has a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology from the University of California, Davis and a master’s in science journalism from New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. Contact the author here.