24 January 2011

Managing Director Matt Alavi knew Dream Pharma drugs would be used to kill; prisoner due to die tomorrow with British drugs unless UK intervenes


Emanuel Hammond

Reprieve today reveals that British businessman Matt Alavi of Dream Pharma knew his drugs would be used to kill and expedited prison orders for that reason.

The US state of Georgia is poised to execute Emanuel Hammond (right) tomorrow using drugs knowingly and willingly supplied by Mr Alavi, who runs Dream Pharma out of the back of a driving academy in West London.

Newly released emails between Mr Alavi and Georgia, obtained in Georgia litigation, offer an insight into the extent of Dream Pharma’s culpability for deaths throughout the US prison system. Until today Mr Alavi has only admitted to sending one batch of execution drugs to Arizona’s State Prison Complex. It is now clear that Dream Pharma has been doing a brisk trade across the USA, quietly supplying Georgia and others with sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

Similarly, Mr Alavi denied that he knew what the drugs were being used for. However, today’s revelations prove that Mr Alavi was explicitly informed that his drugs were to be used for capital punishment and that he deliberately rushed through the prison orders for that reason, adding: “I am more than happy to assist”.

Reprieve urgently contacted Dream Pharma yesterday (Sunday) for help in staving off Emanuel’s execution, set for tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7pm EST, and received no response; Mr Alavi’s intransigence stands in stark contrast to the speed and efficiency with which he swung into action to expedite the export of his lethal product.

Dream Pharma has refused all cooperation with efforts to mitigate the damage caused by its pursuit of profit, despite Reprieve’s urgent pleas issued three times in writing and once in person. On Friday, Hospira, the sole US manufacturer of lethal injection drug sodium thiopental announced that it was permanently halting production of the drug in the face of overwhelming public pressure. Yet this will be too late for the prisoners, including Emanuel Hammond, whose drugs have already been dispatched by Dream Pharma.

Coincidentally, Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith provided free representation 20 years ago to Emanuel Hammond immediately after he was convicted. Mr Hammond’s trial lawyer was so inept that he presented a defence suggesting that the police thought the crime had been committed by a “Mr Fanulanu” – not realizing that the reference, FNULNU, was a common way of writing “First Name Unknown, Last Name Unknown.”

While the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office sought to provide assistance over the weekend to help stave off Tuesday’s execution, other branches of government have fallen down badly on this issue. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills bears significant responsibility for Dream Pharma’s successful exports and the resulting deaths. Documents obtained by Reprieve over the weekend reflect that in the month when Business Secretary Vince Cable dallied after Reprieve’s October 26th demand that exports of sodium thiopental be banned, Dream Pharma exported more drugs (on November 5th), sufficient to take the lives of 85 prisoners. Neither did the BIS respond for three weeks to Reprieve’s request to intervene to prevent the shipment of British drugs being released by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith said: 

“Tomorrow a man is set to die thanks to Dream Pharma’s heartless pursuit of profit. The documentary evidence of Mr Alavi’s enthusiasm is chilling, but I wonder if he would be as keen if he were forced to watch his lethal drugs in action. It is not too late for Mr Alavi to come forward and help save Emanuel’s life.”

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea: katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk / 07931592674 or Clive Stafford Smith: cstaffordsmith@gmail.com / 07940-347125.

Notes for Editors:

Background:

Dream Pharma Ltd, of 176 Horn Lane, London W3 6PJ, is a pharmaceutical company run by Matt Alavi. It operates from a rented space in the back of a driving instructor’s office, Elgone Driving Academy. On January 6, Reprieve released documentary proof that the Acton-based company sold drugs to Arizona that were used in the execution of Jeffrey Landrigan on October 26th, 2010, and that will send many other prisoners to their deaths. Mr Alavi sold 150 vials of sodium thiopental, 180 vials of potassium chloride, and 450 vials of pancuronium bromide to the Arizona State Prison on September 28th, 2010. This was sufficient to execute at least ten prisoners, and one has already died as a result. The sodium thiopental was sold for £1,180.50, a significant mark-up over the normal price in the US. The State of Arizona sought permission from the state supreme court on December 28th to go forward with the next prisoners in line for execution. Reprieve also revealed that before Arizona, the State of Arkansas bought drugs from the UK, though the precise quantity is not yet known. Furthermore, on 6th January an additional 1,042 vials of sodium thiopental (sufficient to execute 85 prisoners) were released to California by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), after importation from Dream Pharma on November 5th. Drugs bought by various states are thought to have been sourced from Dream Pharma, although the company has declined to confirm the fact, or produce the invoices. Various other states’ recent purchases of execution drugs from the UK remain secret.

The US ran short of sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide, two of the drugs used in the execution protocol. On Monday 25th October, Jeffrey Landrigan was executed in Arizona using drugs supplied by a British company (now revealed as Dream Pharma) – despite a plea for clemency from the judge who sentenced him to death. The Arizona consignment was sufficient for four executions, so the British drugs will contribute to three more deaths there.

Soon afterwards, the American lawyers for Edmund Zagorski contacted Reprieve with a plea for help: Tennessee was seeking to purchase the drugs to kill Mr Zagorski, apparently from the same British company. On Thursday 28th October, Reprieve and Leigh Day & Co contacted the Government, having previously asked for emergency measures to be taken to avoid British complicity in Mr Zagorski’s execution. On Monday 1st November Mr Cable announced that the British government would take no such step, because if the US did not get the drug from the UK it would just go elsewhere. Mr Cable also said he was unwilling to interfere unnecessarily in US-UK trade. On behalf of the FCO, Jeremy Browne took the same line.

On Tuesday 2nd November lawyers with Leigh Day filed a judicial review application of the government’s refusal to lift a hand to prevent British complicity in a series of American executions. The British government finally announced an export restriction on Monday 29th November.

New documents reveal that, meanwhile, Dream Pharma exported drugs on November 5th, sufficient to execute 85 people.

On 6th December the California authorities stated that they had imported the drugs from Archimedes Pharma and that the drugs were currently with the FDA in Washington DC:

State corrections officials today revealed how they obtained a scarce drug used in lethal injection executions, saying they received one small batch from Arizona officials and ordered another, larger batch from a British manufacturer. California corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said the first batch of 12 grams of sodium thiopental came from Arizona on Sept. 30 and that California was not charged for it. The second batch of 521 grams was ordered from Archimedes Pharma, a British company, and corrections officials paid $36,415 for it, she said. The shipment was approved by U.S. Customs officials and the Drug Enforcement Administration, Thornton said, and is now on hold on the East coast awaiting release by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "We have followed all the proper procedures," Thornton said. The origin of the drugs is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which won a court order requiring corrections officials to reveal where they got the drugs by Tuesday.The ACLU contends that it is illegal for corrections officials to use a foreign-produced drug in executions and the matter has become an international controversy. Britain last week tightened rules governing the export of the drug to the United States, a move that came after California made its purchase.

--- See Sam Stanton, California got execution drugs from Arizona, British sources, Sacramento Bee (Dec. 6, 2010), at http://www.sacbee.com/2010/12/06/3237693/california-corrections-got-execution.html (accessed Dec. 7, 2010).

While the list cost of the drugs imported by California should under no circumstances be more than $1,000, California has paid $36,415 for its supply – a blood money mark up of 3,500%.

On 16th December, Reprieve brought to Business Secretary Vince Cable’s attention that Arizona had already sourced the other two execution drugs (pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride) from the UK, and was advising California on how to do the same. Reprieve asked for a ban on the export of these two drugs as well by 20th December. Cable’s office has provided no reply. Neither did the BIS apparently act on Reprieve’s request – made on December 7th – to intervene to ensure that the British drugs were not released to California by the US FDA. The FDA announcement on January 4th reveals that any intervention by Cable will now be too late.

On Friday 21st January, Hospira, the sole US manufacturer of lethal injection drug sodium thiopental announced that it was permanently halting production of the drug, potentially delaying executions across the USA. Hospira Inc. blamed pressure from the Italian government for their withdrawal from the market. Many US states ran short of sodium thiopental, the first in the three-drug lethal injection procedure, after a 2009 decision by Hospira to suspend production due to manufacturing issues. Hospira had planned to resume producing the drug in early 2011 at a factory in Liscate, Italy. But in December, the Italian parliament issued an order binding the government to ensure that Hospira's Italian-made thiopental would not be used for executions. Reprieve welcomed Hospira’s decision, but has urged them to monitor carefully the use of their other products. Hospira also manufactures pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride – the two other drugs in the lethal injection cocktail– and has been known to sell these drugs to prisons for use in executions. Reprieve asks that Hospira exit the lethal drug market altogether by refusing to sell any drugs to prisons where prisoners are executed, and urges other pharmaceutical manufacturing companies do the same.

Sodium thiopental is one of a cocktail of three drugs prescribed for use in lethal injections by US states which retain the death penalty. Sodium thiopental is supposed to anaesthetise the victim, before pancuronium bromide is used to paralyse him, and finally potassium chloride is used to induce a heart attack. Sodium thiopental is a bona fide anaesthetic and is included in the WHO list of essential medicines. However, it is old and has largely been superseded by more modern and efficacious drugs in western countries. Its use in the United States, other than for lethal injections, is confined to a few residual specialist areas. The only producer of the drug in the United States, Hospira, had ceased production due to a shortage of raw ingredients.

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Reprieve

PO Box 52742

London EC4P 4WS

Tel: 020 7353 4640

Fax: 020 7353 4641

Email: info@reprieve.org.uk

Website: www.reprieve.org.uk

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner

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