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Pfizer to block its drugs from being used in lethal injections

Carrying out the death penalty is getting harder for states

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Pfizer, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, has announced that it will no longer allow its products to be used for lethal injections and the death penalty. Effective immediately, Pfizer will closely screen and restrict the wholesale distribution of seven products that can be used for lethal injection, demanding that companies pledge not to resell them to corrections agencies. "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," the company said in a statement. The news was first reported by The New York Times.

Already faced with shortages of traditional lethal injection drugs, states have lately devised new "cocktails" that can help carry out the death penalty. Such experiments have resulted in numerous botched executions — widely viewed as inhumane — and now Pfizer has joined over 20 other drug companies that no longer want their products associated with executions.

"Executing states must now go underground if they want to get hold of medicines for use in lethal injection," Maya Foa of the advocacy group Reprieve, told the Times. And indeed, many states are quietly bringing in new formulations, which a level of secrecy that opens more questions about standards and the quality of drugs being used. Others have switched to alternate methods like the electric chair, firing squad, and nitrogen gas.