EU imposes new export controls on execution meds

European officials are pulling in the reins on lethal-injection drugs. It's a case of putting export controls where its convictions lie: Since 2008, the EU has been calling for an end to the death penalty worldwide. As anesthetics used in executions have run scarce in the U.S., death-penalty states have turned to European suppliers--and the EU now wants to choke off that supply line.

"As of today, trade of certain anesthetics, such as sodium thiopental, which can be used in lethal injections, to countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty, will be tightly controlled," the European Commission said in a statement. To export the drugs, their manufacturers will have to guarantee that they won't be used in executions.

As Reuters reports, the only U.S. supplier of sodium thiopental stopped making it domestically earlier this year. When that drugmaker, Hospira ($HSP), announced plans to move production to Italy, officials there demanded guarantees that the drug wouldn't be used in executions. Since then, the U.K. put an emergency ban on sodium thiopental exports to keep the drug out of executioners' hands, and then moved to ban exports of three other drugs used in lethal injections.

The new EU ban covers pentobarbital, sodium thiopental, and "all short and intermediate-acting barbituate anesthetics," an official told Reuters. Among the European drugmakers that produce these meds is Denmark's Lundbeck, which had continued to sell its pentobarbital drug Nembutal in the U.S. because it is used to treat epilepsy.

- read the Reuters story