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Pfizer, the free market & the death penalty


The free market on lethal injection: “Nope.”

The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced on Friday that it had imposed sweeping controls on the distribution of its products to ensure that none are used in lethal injections, a step that closes off the last remaining open-market source of drugs used in executions.

Pfizer said it would restrict the sale to selected wholesalers of seven products that could be used in executions. The distributors must certify that they will not resell the drugs to corrections departments and will be closely monitored.


Pressure on the drug companies has not only come from human rights groups. Trustees of the New York State pension fund, which is a major shareholder in Pfizer and many other producers, have used the threat of shareholder resolutions to push two other companies to impose controls and praised Pfizer for its new policy.

Naturally, the Heritage Foundation applauded this move by an American company. Ha ha, a little humor for your Friday night.

David B. Muhlhausen, an expert on criminal justice at the Heritage Foundation, accused Pfizer and other drug companies of “caving in to special interest groups.” He said that while the companies have a right to choose how their products are used, their efforts to curb sales for executions “are not actually in the public interest” because research shows, he believes, that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on crime.

So … Companies have the right to decide how their products are used, provided those decisions are in the public interest, as defined by a special interest group.

Of course these people don’t listen to themselves. They like to inflict pain, not receive it.

As an aside, while you’re admiring the weight bearing capacity of “believes” in that paragraph, you can check out a study that I believe answers the question about the DP and deterrence.

Does this mean lethal injections will stop in the U.S.? I wish, but not in the foreseeable future. Some states have stockpiled drugs and I’m going to guess states that are that determined to put criminals to death will not be overly scrupulous about such trifles as expiration dates.

And if states can’t get drugs from approved manufacturers, there’s the black market.

Texas, too, is apparently hedging its bets. Last fall, shipments of sodium thiopental, ordered by Texas and Arizona from an unapproved source in India, were seized in airports by federal officials.

How does the saying go: Smuggling in defense of the state’s blood lust is no vice? Something like that.

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