Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lethal Drugs: Divesting from Texas

Texas Moratorium Network's blog has posted English version of an article published by Norwatch. The article addresses the Norwegian Oil Funds investment in companies that produce the lethal drugs used in executions. Later, Norway's leading television station, NRK, picked up the issue and ran it as the lead story on the evening news. As According to TMN:

The Texas government also agrees that divestment is a legitimate means of
affecting policy change in foreign countries. During the last session of the
Texas Legislature, Governor Perry signed into law SB
, which places restrictions on the ability of public retirement systems
in the state of Texas to invest in companies that are beneficial to the Sudanese
government and are indirectly facilitating the genocide occurring in Sudan. The
bill restricts the public retirement systems in the state of Texas from doing
business with certain companies associated with the Sudanese government. In the
Texas House it passed 146 in favor, 0 opposed, 1 Present, not voting. In the
Texas Senate it passed with 29 in favor and zero opposed. If Texas can divest
from companies doing business in a country because of human rights violations,
then another country, such as Norway, could place such restrictions on companies
doing business in Texas or facilitating human rights violations in Texas, based
on Norway's human rights norms.

Norwatch has listed four companies that produce the drugs used in the lethal injection process:

Hospira Inc., USA, was separated from Abbott Laboratories in
2004. Hospira retained the production of a series of pharmaceuticals, including
sodium thiopental (Pentothal®), to which Abbott had exclusive rights. The
company produces all of the three drugs sodium thiopental (Pentothal®),
pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. (The Pension Fund has invested 6,2
million euros in the company’s shares and 4,4 million euros in bonds.)• The

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Israel, bought in January 2004
Sicor Pharmaceutical, previously Gensia Sicor Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which
produces pancuronium bromide. (The Pension Fund has 22 million euros in shares,
no bonds.)

Baxter International, USA, makes potassium chloride. (The Pension Fund has 53,4 million euros in shares and 13,3 million euros in bonds.)

Cardinal Health, USA, distributes potassium chloride injections produced by Baxter and pancuronium bromide injections produced by Sicor/Teva. (The Pension Fund has 83,8 million euros in shares and 15,2 million euros in bonds.)Consequently, the Pension Fund has altogether invested 194 million euros in these four companies, of which 165,4 million euros is in shares and 329,5 million in bonds.In addition, the Pension Fund has share investments in the distributor AmerisourceBergen (USA) and in the producer Wyeth (USA) of, respectively, 7,1 million euros and 194 million euros, but Norwatch has not received answers as to whether they still distribute or
produce the pharmaceutical substances in question.

Baxter International has published a response to Norwatch's article on their website:

For more than 70 years, Baxter has dedicated itself to saving people's lives. We
do this by offering products and services that help treat people with some of
the most challenging medical conditions, including cancer, hemophilia, immune
deficiencies, infectious diseases, kidney disease and trauma. Use of our
products to end lives contradicts everything we're in business to do - provide
life-saving therapies.

Baxter markets products such as pancuronium
bromide and potassium chloride for very important and legitimate medical uses.
These products have been used safely and effectively for decades. Pancuronium
bromide is commonly used with anesthesia to keep patients from moving during
surgery and to keep critically ill patients who are receiving ventilation during
recovery more comfortable. Potassium is a critical element to the normal
functioning of our body, and along with sodium, is present in all cells
throughout our body and important for proper functioning. There are several
disease states where potassium is lost inappropriately from the body through
excretion in the urine and therefore it is important that potassium be replaced
to correct these deficiencies. Clearly, use of these products like these to
carry out the death penalty in our nation's prisons falls outside the use and
dosage approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Addressing the complex
issue of capital punishment by withdrawing these products from the market,
however, would adversely affect the millions of patients each year who need
these products.

Baxter does not control the application of these
products, which are widely used and available through many sources, not just
directly through Baxter. Our products are sold through a variety of channels,
including wholesalers and distributors, buying groups, and hospitals, who then
make the product available to the end-user. We focus our efforts on actively
educating licensed medical professionals about the use of our products, as
approved by regulatory authorities and described in the product label and
package insert. Nevertheless, it remains lawful, as well as standard medical
practice, for health care providers to administer products for uses that are not

While we cannot control how our products are
administered, it is our intent that our products be used in a safe and
appropriate manner.

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