A Johnson & Johnson company opposes Florida’s plans to use one of its drugs in an execution. It is the first time the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer has entered the death-penalty debate, reports the Wall Street Journal. Florida amended its lethal-injection protocol this year to include etomidate, an anesthetic agent that has never been used in executions, after the state exhausted its supply of the sedative midazolam. The protocol is due to be used for the first time Thursday in the execution of Mark Asay, who was sentenced to death for the 1987 killings of two men in Jacksonville.
Scientists at Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals NV created etomidate in the 1960s. The company never distributed the drug in North America and divested the rest of the business in 2016. The company has protested Florida’s plan to use etomidate to render death-row inmates unconscious before injecting them with a paralytic agent and a third drug to stop their hearts. No Johnson & Johnson drugs have been used in executions, says Reprieve, an international-rights group that opposes the death penalty. Companies including Baxter International Inc., McKesson Corp. , Pfizer and Roche Holding AG have publicly opposed the use of their drugs in executions.