Lundbeck wins ethical award for ending use of its drugs in executions

By agency reporter
April 6, 2012

Lundbeck has become the first recipient of a new Corporate Social Responsibility Award for Ethical Leadership in the Pharmaceutical Industry.

The award, which was presented to Lundbeck’s Chief Executive Officer, Ulf Wiinberg by the legal action charity Reprieve, was given in recognition of the steps the company has taken to prevent the use of its medicines in executions in the USA.

Lundbeck became the subject of much controversy in early 2011 when it emerged that a number of US states had begun to use pentobarbital in lethal injections.The drug is manufactured exclusively by Lundbeck in the US. The Danish pharmaceutical company took unprecedented action to stop US departments of corrections using their medicines to execute prisoners by restricting the distribution of the product.

The distribution change, which came into force on July 1st 2011, means that now only legitimate medical users of the drug are permitted to purchase pentobarbital in the US. It is no longer available to prisons for use in executions.

It is the first action of its kind, but the success of the venture means that other pharmaceutical companies which find themselves in a similar situation may follow suit.

Lundbeck has also become the first company to sign a new 'Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath,' pledging its commitment to medical ethics and corporate social responsibility. Under the Oath, companies pledge:

“We dedicate our work to developing and distributing pharmaceuticals to the service of humanity; we will practice our profession with conscience and dignity; the right to health of the patient will be our first consideration; we condemn the use of any of our pharmaceuticals in the execution of human beings.”

Reprieve is urging other ethical pharmaceutical companies to follow Lundbeck’s lead by signing up to the Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath, and taking the necessary steps to ensure that their medicines are used to advance health and not for the purpose of executions.

Reprieve Investigator, Maya Foa, said: “Lundbeck’s action has changed the landscape of corporate social responsibility in the pharmaceutical industry. Many pharmaceutical companies lament the use of their medicines in executions – Lundbeck didn’t just lament it, they took active steps to prevent it. In doing so, the company proved that pharmaceutical manufacturers don’t have to be complicit in capital punishment; they have a choice as to whether they facilitate executions by supplying prisons with lethal injection drugs. In short, they were true to the values of their profession, and this award is testament to their efforts.”


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