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At the general meeting for the Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck and its investors, the polemics surrounding the use of Lundbeck’s product Nembutal in American executions, once again, raised discussion. The head of the company, Ulf Wiinberg, addressed the issue directly in his address to the assembly, reiterating the company’s position on the unintended use of the drug Nembutal. Wiinberg told the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende business section that the board had reviewed the possibility of discontinuing the product in question once they were told about its use in the US. Despite claiming that the drug has little financial value to the company’s overall business, the company had decided not to take it out of their product line. They cite the warnings of American doctors who prescribe the drug to their patients for the final decision but point out that the company is very much against the drug’s use in executions.
However, human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the British Reprieve have not found this position satisfactory. On the contrary, the Danish branch of Amnesty have invited Wiinberg for a meeting where they intend to discuss the pro-active strategy which they would like Lundbeck to adapt towards abolishing the death penalty in the US.
“We do not agree that this is the end of the road. That is why we are asking the top leaders of Lundbeck to meet with us to discuss how Lundbeck can strategically and actively influence effort to abolish the death penalty in the USA. On this issue, we believe that Lundbeck and Amnesty have parallel interests. Because Lundbeck’s problem goes away if the death penalty is eradicated” says Lars Normann Joergensen, the General Secretary of Amnesty International.
Joergensen is critical of Lundbeck’s effort to date. He believes the firm gave up on securing a demand for an end-user agreement with the American distributors in advance and that Lundbeck have proven unwilling to pressure the FDA for position on the arguably ‘misuse’ of their product. The General Secretary of Amnesty is hoping that “by trying to get the use [of Nembutal in executions] stopped, Lundbeck would force the distributors and the officials to make up their minds and make clear that they actually support the death penalty.”
So far, Lundbeck has denied that the company has been lacking in response. After having been made aware that their drug was being taken up in American execution processes, the board contacted grassroots organizations to review alternative solutions to discontinuing the product. “We got to the conclusion that the role of Lundbeck is to prioritize the interest of the patients and that there’s not much else we can do besides what we have done – that is to make our opinion on the matter clear. We have actually been quick to express our standpoint. It is very unusual for a company to be so clear about their positions in an American context,” says Ulf Wiinberg who do not think an activist approach would be useful.
At the general meeting, Mr. Wiinberg avoided to answer more questions from the investors by saying that the American prison authorities had been made aware that their use of Nembutal was against the wished of Lundbeck. Many investors seemed satisfied with this answer so for now, the discussion seems to have been put to rest from the company’s side.