USA - A German medical company is suspected of illegally shipping pentobarbital

22 July 2018 :

On 12th July, Deutsche Welle reported that a German medical company is suspected of illegally shipping several tons of a solution that is used to euthanise animals to the US. The German medical company VET Pharma Friesoythe GmbH is suspected of having illegally delivered several tons of an animal euthanising agent to the USA. The active substance contained, pentobarbital, is repeatedly used in US prisons to execute people and falls under the EU Torture Directive. It is therefore subject to strict export restrictions. According to information from NDR and Suddeutsche Zeitung, the public prosecutor's office in Oldenburg is investigating the managing director of the company on suspicion of a commercial violation of the German foreign trade law. At the end of May, customs investigators searched the company's offices in Friesoythe in Lower Saxony and Schwabenheim in Rhineland-Palatinate and confiscated data and documents. Specifically, the public prosecutor assumes that VET Pharma has exported 3 deliveries of the injection solution "Beuthanasia-D" to the USA since November 2017 without a corresponding export license. Employees of VET Pharma are said to have manipulated export data in order to prevent the responsible transport company from noticing the explosive nature of the deliveries. According to a search warrant issued by the District Court of Oldenburg, the main customs office in Bremen prevented further exports in February 2018. according to US customs data, VET Pharma supplied the drugs to a US sister company, Intervet Schering-Plough Animal Health. Both companies belong to the US pharmaceutical giant Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD). Further deliveries are said to have gone to Japan, also in these cases no export license is said to have existed. The public prosecutor's office in Oldenburg confirmed preliminary proceedings "against several managers of a pharmaceutical company" upon request, but did not want to comment on concrete details with reference to the ongoing investigations. "Beuthanasia-D" is used in veterinary medicine to put down dogs. The main active ingredient of the product, pentobarbital, is also used in American prisons to execute people. The substance has therefore been covered by a European anti-torture directive since 2011. According to German law, an export to the USA is only permitted if the whereabouts of the product have been completely clarified. In the past 5 years, the responsible Federal Office of Economics and Export Control has not approved the delivery of the substance to the USA. Many pharmaceutical companies ignore delivery requests from the USA for such products because they want to prevent their drugs from being used on death row. Upon request, a spokesperson for MSD Animal Health announced that they were "naturally already working closely with the authorities on this matter".


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