British firm denies exporting execution drug to US

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The only British company licensed to sell an anaesthetic that could have been used in a US execution on Thursday denied exporting the drug, after officials in the United States said it came from Britain.

Arizona executed Jeffrey Landrigan for a 1989 murder late Tuesday despite a a US shortage of the anaesthetic normally used, sodium thiopental, one of three components of the lethal injection.

The US state said it had to use a foreign-made product, although it was not clear if this was sodium thiopental or another non-approved drug cleared for use in the execution by the US Supreme Court.

After the execution, the Arizona attorney general's office said the drug used came from a British manufacturer but would not name the firm.

"There is one current licence for sodium thiopental and that is for Archimedes Pharma UK," a spokesman for Britain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency told AFP on Thursday.

But in a statement, Archimedes said: "Consistent with applicable regulations, the company does not have information on specific end purchasers or users of its products.

"The company neither exports the product to the US for any purpose nor is it aware of any exports of the product."

It did not comment on the possibility that a third party medical supplier had been used.

Archimedes describes itself as "an international specialty pharmaceutical company focused on the oncology, pain, neurology, and critical care sectors."

It sells sodium thiopental in a powder solution which must be dissolved in water before being injected. It is used as an anaesthetic, or to control fits.

© 2010 AFP

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