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J&J Protests Etomidate Use For Executions. So?

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Joe Palazzolo reports for the WSJ (emphasis added):

A Johnson & Johnson company opposes plans by Florida authorities to use one of its drugs in an upcoming execution, marking the first time the world's largest pharmaceutical manufacturer has waded into the death penalty debate.

Earlier this year, Florida amended its lethal injection protocol to include etomidate, an anesthetic agent that has never been used in executions, after exhausting its supply of the sedative midazolam.

Florida authorities are slated to use the updated protocol for the first time on Thursday in the execution of Mark Asay, who was sentenced to death for the 1987 killings of Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in Jacksonville, Fla.

Scientists at Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceuticals NV created etomidate in the 1960s. The company no longer distributes the drug, which is still used in hospitals.
Excuse me, J&J, but if you no longer make or distribute this drug, and if the patent expired long ago, how exactly is this any of your damn business?
"We do not support the use of our medicines for indications that have not been approved by regulatory authorities," a Janssen spokesman said in an email. "We do not condone the use of our medicines in lethal injections for capital punishment."
So?  Unlike companies that are the sole sources of particular drugs, a company that merely invented it in the distant past has no ability to prevent its sale or use.  As for "indications that have not been approved by regulatory authorities," capital punishment is not within the FDA's mission, and there is no process by which it can approve or disapprove use of a drug for that purpose.

On top of that, I don't believe that this is really any statement from deep principle.  It is more likely a response to pressure.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director and general counsel of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports the death penalty, said drug companies have caved to pressure from abolitionists.

"The drug industry had no problem supplying execution drugs until they came under fire for it," he said. "As a matter of business, the profit from selling to this very small market is not worth the problems the opponents can generate."
Update:  A check of press releases on both the J&J and Janssen sites found no mention of this issue.  Making the statement but making no effort to publicize it is consistent with the hypothesis that they merely want to get the protesters off their backs.

Update 2:  The article is also available on foxbusiness.com, possibly longer than the temporary nonsubscriber link at the top of this post.

3 Comments

As respects Kent's update: Genuflecting to anti-DP protesters just to get them to go away is not as bad as actually, sincerely opposing the death penalty (the only just response to some remarkably hideous crimes) -- but let's not kid ourselves, it's not a good sign either, either for substance or for its reflection of the "backbone" of corporate America.

Corporate America, the U.S. military- former bastions of tradition and rational thought- have deteriorated into an insidious, progressive malaise.

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