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Teva to Block Drug for U.S. Execution Use as Hospira Pressured

While it plans to supply propofol to hospitals and health-care providers, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. will establish procedures to prevent the drug from being sold to correctional facilities. Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg
While it plans to supply propofol to hospitals and health-care providers, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. will establish procedures to prevent the drug from being sold to correctional facilities. Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. said it plans to control distribution of the anesthetic propofol to prevent the drug from being used in executions of U.S. prisoners.

The world’s largest maker of generic drugs has said it plans to restart production of the medicine, which is lethal in large doses and contributed to the death of singer Michael Jackson. A shortage of other execution drugs prompted Missouri’s department of corrections to say in May it will use propofol in any upcoming lethal injections.

While it plans to supply propofol to hospitals and health-care providers, Teva will establish procedures to prevent the drug from being sold to correctional facilities, spokeswoman Denise Bradley said. Petach Tikva, Israel-based Teva joins other drugmakers, including Denmark’s H. Lundbeck A/S and Fresenius Kabi, a U.S. unit of Germany’s Fresenius SE, which have taken similar steps.

“Teva has shown that -- like any responsible pharmaceutical company -- it wishes to be in the business of saving lives, not ending them in executions,” said Maya Foa, head of the Stop the Lethal Injection Project at Reprieve, a London-based human rights group.

Teva is limiting the sale and distribution of this product to customers who agree to use best efforts not to sell or distribute to correctional facilities, in accordance with a request made by the company that manufactures the drug for Teva, Bradley said.

Stake Sold

Hospira Inc., another drugmaker licensed to sell propofol in the U.S., has failed to respond to requests from at least one institutional investor to take similar action, Foa said. The Lake Forest, Illinois-based company restarted propofol production late last year.

On March 12, the Copenhagen-based Medical Doctors’ Pension Fund said it sold its 48 million-krone ($8.3 million) equity stake in Hospira after receiving no reply to “repeated” requests to change its distribution system to prevent misuse of propofol.

ABP, the Dutch pension fund for government and public sector employees, is also assessing its investment in Hospira, Foa said. ABP spokesman Jos van Dijk said the fund’s board will discuss the matter tomorrow and declined to comment on it today.

“Hospira has long communicated that we do not support the use of any of our products in lethal injection,” Daniel Rosenberg, a spokesman for Hospira, said in an e-mailed statement on Feb. 4. He declined to comment on whether the company plans to control distribution of propofol.

The company hasn’t substantively changed its position, Rosenberg said by e-mail yesterday.

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