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UK to ban export of lethal injection drugs to US

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lethal injection chamber at San Quentin State Prison, California.

Britain announced Thursday that it will ban the export to the US of three pharmaceutical drugs used for lethal injections in executions under the death penalty.

The three drugs are pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable said the order will be formalized within the next few days.

Cable issued a statement saying, "We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and are clear that British drugs should not be used to carry out lethal injections. That is why we introduced a control on sodium thiopental last year—the first of its kind in the world. And it is also why we are now controlling the export of the other drugs used in lethal injections in the US."

Cable said he was requesting all countries in the EU to do the same in order to effectively control the export of these drugs.

Britain blocked the export of sodium thiopental in November after the human rights group Reprieve sued the government to stop its exportation to the US. Sodium thiopental had been sold to the Department of Corrections in two states, Georgia and Arizona, by a small wholesaler in London. The drug is legally used for lethal injections in the US but is in short supply there.

Pentobarbital, a sedative, is used to control continuous epileptic seizures, as well as to treat a variety of other medical conditions. After sodium thiopental became scarce in the US late last year, the US began to use pentobarbital as a substitute.

The Death Penalty Information Center said in December that executions in the US had declined in 2010 compared to previous years, partly as a result of a sodium thiopental shortage.

Cquote1.svg We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and are clear that British drugs should not be used to carry out lethal injections. Cquote2.svg

—Vince Cable, UK Business Secretary

The UK government said in a press release: "Having consulted UK suppliers of these drugs and other interested parties, the Government is satisfied that legitimate medical trade will not be hampered by the decision."


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