New controls will
be introduced on the export of the drug Propofol to the USA
because of the risk that it might be used to carry out executions
by lethal injection, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced today.
The move follows the recent decision by the state of Missouri to
use Propofol in its execution protocol. There is currently a
shortage of Propofol in the USA which means that correctional
facilities may seek to obtain the drug from overseas.
The action builds on the Government’s previous decision to
place export controls on drugs used for lethal injection and in
successfully arguing for the adoption of similar controls across
Business Secretary Vince Cable said:
"This country opposes the death penalty. We are
clear that the state should never be complicit in judiciary
executions through the use of British drugs in lethal injections.
So I am using the levers I have at my disposal in this department
to rule out any possibility of this happening.
"That is why we introduced a control on sodium
thiopental in November 2011 - the first of its kind in the world -
and imposed controls on three other drugs used in lethal injection
in the US in April 2012. We are now taking further action to
prevent Propofol being sourced from the UK for use in executions.
“The UK is leading by example on this important issue and we
were successful in urging the adoption of EU-wide controls in
The necessary order to extend the controls will be laid
before Parliament later this year.
The Government urgently considered the case for extending
export controls to cover Propofol following a request from the
campaigning group Reprieve. The group were concerned that the USA
may look to source the drugs from the UK.
Propofol is an anaesthetic used everyday in hospitals in the
US and Europe. Having consulted UK suppliers of these drugs and
other interested parties, the Government is satisfied that
legitimate medical trade will not be hampered by the decision.
Notes to Editors
1. Most pharmaceutical products are not covered by the strategic
export control regime, which is aimed predominantly at military
and dual use goods. The decision to require a licence for the
export of sodium thiopental to the US – taken in November 2010 –
was the first of its kind.
2. The Government added three more drugs – pancuronium
bromide, potassium chloride and pentobarbital – to the list of
those requiring export licences to the US in 2011.
3. In December 2011, the European Union amended the
Regulation on export of torture goods (1236/2005). This introduced
an EU-wide control on the export of “short and intermediate acting
barbiturates”. This includes thiopental and pentobarbital. The EU
control on these items has therefore superseded the UK control.
This does not catch propofol as it is not a barbiturate.
4. The Government's economic policy objective is to
achieve 'strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is
more evenly shared across the country and between
industries.' It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for
Growth’ (PDF 1.7MB), published at Budget 2011:
• To create the most competitive tax system in the G20
To make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow
• To encourage investment and exports as a route to
a more balanced economy
• To create a more educated workforce
that is the most flexible in Europe.
Work is underway across Government to achieve these
ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of
the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new
impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the
public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which
the Government wants the economy to travel.
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