Broward News

Maker of Drug Used in Florida Lethal Injections Asked Rick Scott Not to Kill People With It

Florida hasn't tested out the new lethal-injection drug it has planned to start using, but letters to Gov. Rick Scott from the drugmaker's president -- sent before Scott signed off on the first lethal juicing of his governorship -- show that the company's president practically begged the governor not to use the new drug to kill the state's prisoners.

Staffan Schüberg, president of the Danish drug manufacturer Lundbeck, wrote to Scott twice asking him not to misuse his company's drug, Nembutal -- which Scott approved to execute South Florida cop-killer Manuel Valle.

One concern Schüberg relays to Scott about the use of Nembutal in Florida's executions is that his company didn't exactly test the drug by trying to kill people, so it has no idea of its effectiveness or safety in executions.

On May 16, Schüberg wrote his first letter to the governor, asking him to stop abusing his company's drug.

"We are adamantly opposed to the use of Nembutal to execute prisoners because it contradicts everything we are in business to do -- provide therapies that improve people's lives," he wrote. "Given our strong opposition to this misuse of our product, we previously sent a letter to the Florida Department of Corrections urging it to refrain from using Nembutal for the purpose of capital punishment."

Two weeks later, Scott signed Valle's death warrant.

Valle's execution was just delayed yesterday, from August 2 to September 1, in a Florida Supreme Court decision that stated a judge will have to hear evidence on whether the new lethal injection drug the state plans to use in Valle's execution is acceptable.

Nembutal -- which has been the replacement since the lone manufacturer of sodium thiopental stopped making that drug -- has been used without any reported incidents in a handful of other states.

Still, Schüberg wrote again to the governor after he signed off on Valle's juicing, asking one more time that Florida not use his company's sedative.

"The use of pentobarbital outside the approved labeling has not been established," he said. "As such, Lundbeck cannot assure the associated safety and efficacy profiles in such instances. For this reason, we are concerned about its use in prison executions."

The hearing on the new drug ordered by the Florida Supreme Court is scheduled for tomorrow.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley