Nebraska lawmaker pleads with Pfizer to help stop execution

Pfizer world headquarters, New York City. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Norbert Nagel, Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany

EVANSVILLE, Ind., July 31 (UPI) — In a last-ditch effort to stop Nebraska’s first execution in more than two decades, a state senator called on the drug manufacturing company Pfizer to take legal action to stop the state from using its drugs to kill a man.

Pfizer policy prohibits the use of its products in executions. In October 2017, the company asked the Nevada Department of Corrections to return all Pfizer drugs purchased for that purpose. The company made similar demands in multiple other states. Nebraska refused and earlier this summer announced it would execute a death row inmate Aug. 14.

The death warrant for Carey Dean Moore, convicted of a double murder, was issued around the same time that another pharmaceutical company, Alvogen, won a lawsuit to stop the state of Nevada from using its drugs in an execution.

“If you [Pfizer] decline to take the legal avenue open to you, then the genuineness and sincerity of your professed ‘values’ are called into question,” state Sen. Ernie Chambers wrote in a letter to Pfizer on Friday.

Pfizer responded:

“Our records do not show any sales of any restricted products to the Nebraska Department of Corrections. We are again asking the Nebraska DOC to return any Pfizer restricted product.”

Without legal action from the drug company, the execution will likely be carried out as scheduled.

This is troubling to some Nebraska attorneys because, they say, there is no way to verify whether Pfizer drugs will be used in the execution. The state does not disclose the sources of its lethal injection drugs.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska recently sued the state over this issue and won. A judge ordered the state to reveal the sources of its drugs. Nebraska has not done so, opting instead to appeal the decision.

“We’ve been unable to see those critical documents because it’s on appeal,” said Danielle Conrad, the ACLU of Nebraska’s executive director. “It is incredibly troubling because the appeal won’t be heard for some time. This won’t be resolved before the execution date.”

If the state were to reveal the sources of its lethal injection drugs, Conrad said, it’s possible that the companies that produced the drugs would move to stop the execution.

It’s happening across the country.

“A lot of drug companies are trying to prevent states from acquiring their drugs to use in executions,” said Robin Konrad, director of research and special projects for the Death Penalty Information Center. “So you have this tension between states wanting to get the drugs and struggling to get them.”

As a result, many states attempt to keep the sources of these drugs secret, Konrad said.

Such battles between governments and pharmaceutical companies have been going on for years, she said.

The conflict started shortly after one of the key lethal injection drugs ceased production in the United States. State governments attempted to purchase the drug from European countries, but were unable to due to international human rights laws. So, they had to find other drugs.

Not all the combinations resulted in successful executions, Konrad said.

“As drug manufacturers realized their drugs were being used to execute people, they started putting protocols in place to stop it,” Konrad said.

The state of Nebraska intends to execute Moore using a combination of four drugs never before tried in the United States: diazepam, fentanyl citrate, cisatracurium besylate and potassium chloride.

Moore does not intend to appeal the death warrant.


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