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Berlin has asked pharmaceutical companies not to supply the United States with a drug used in executions for prisoners on death row, after the sole US manufacturer announced it would pull out of the market.
The drug in question is also a common anesthetic in Europe
German Health Minister Philipp Rösler sent a letter to the nation's drug makers on Monday, asking them to refuse any requests from the US for the drug sodium thiopental, which is used in lethal injections.
The Health Ministry's request met with broad support in Germany, where the death penalty has been outlawed for more than half a century.
The vice president of the German Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, praised the ministry's efforts, telling The Associated Press that the nation's physicians supported the request and urged pharmaceutical companies to "acknowledge their ethical responsibility."
The director of Human Rights Watch in Germany, Wenzel Michalski, also voiced his support for the health ministry's efforts.
"We cannot slaughter people brutally. Even if they themselves are criminals, they still have the right to live," Michalski told Deutsche Welle.
Not just for executions
The drug in question is a common anasthetic in Europe, according to Bruno Wassmer, the managing director of Inresa, one of three German companies that manufacture the drug.
"Thiopental is used everyday in clinics in Germany to put patients to sleep during operations," Wassmer said.
The US executed 46 inmates in 2010
In the US, thiopental is part of a three-drug cocktail used to execute death row inmates, by inducing coma, then death.
Several US states have been had to postpone executions due to short supplies.
The drug's US manufacturer, Hospira, was forced to quit the market on Friday, after its plans to produce the drug at its Italian plant were thwarted when the company could not guarantee the Italian authorities that the drug would not be used in executions.
All 27 European Union nations have abolished the death penalty, and the bloc, of which Italy and Germany are both members, actively campaigns for its abolition in all cases.
Despite the short supply, the German drug manufacturer Inresa said it had no plans to sell the drug to the US, where the death penalty is still legal in 35 of the 50 states.
"We are all against the death penalty," Wassmer told Deutsche Welle.
Author: Sarah Harman
Editor: Nancy Isenson