Pfizer's Death Penalty Ban Highlights the Black Market in Execution Drugs
"Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer made big news last week when it announced a ban on the use of its drugs
to carry out the death penalty by lethal injection. 'Sweeping controls
on the distribution of its products' have clamped shut 'he last
remaining open-market source of drugs used in executions,' the New York Times reported, calling it a milestone in the fight against capital punishment.
Somewhat buried in the flurry of headlines that followed was the fact
that Pfizer has never been known to supply states with execution drugs.
It is only after the company acquired a different drug company last year
— Hospira Inc., which produced several drugs states have used or intend
to use in executions — that Pfizer put such restrictions in place. This
doesn’t make its policy any less important: 'Pfizer has closed the
circle,' said Arizona federal public defender Dale Baich, who litigates
lethal injection challenges across the country. 'The states can no
longer obtain drugs from legitimate and legal sources.' But as Baich and
others know too well, many states stopped seeking drugs from legitimate
sources a long time ago. Today, most active death penalty states rely
on anonymous compounding pharmacies, whose loose regulations vary wildly
from state to state, making them dangerously unreliable compared to FDA
approved drug companies when it comes to the efficacy of their
products. Other states have broken federal law
by importing illicit drugs from overseas. In driving states to the
underground market, Pfizer’s announcement merely makes official what has
already been happening for years."