One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies withdraws the last open-market drug available for executions.

Pfizer’s move to block the use of its drugs to execute prisoners could lead to US states reconsidering the death penalty altogether, experts say.

The pharmaceutical giant’s decision closed off the last remaining open-market source for drugs used in lethal injections.

The Pfizer logo appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. Pfizer and Allergan are joining in the biggest buyout of the year, a $160 billion stock deal that will create the world’s largest drugmaker. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Pfizer stops selling lethal injection drugs

It followed similar actions by more than 20 US and European drug manufacturers.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, called Pfizer’s move “significant”, saying it forces states to make a choice.

“It underscores that (Pfizer) along with the rest of the pharmaceutical community is committed to ensuring medicines that are made to save lives are not misused by states to kill prisoners,” he told Sky News.

Mr Dunham added that it is becoming difficult for states to obtain drugs used in lethal injections.

He pointed specifically to Utah, which approved firing squads as a backup method to lethal injections in March 2015.

That decision, however, prompted an unlikely push by a conservative state lawmaker to abolish the death penalty altogether.

The measure passed the state Senate but did not obtain enough votes to make it through the House before the end of the legislative year.

Mr Dunham said despite its failure to obtain passage, the conservative-led bill showed a “reconsideration” among those who are typically in favour of capital punishment.

Last year, Nebraska became the first traditionally conservative state to abolish the death penalty over a veto from the state’s governor.

More than half the country – some 31 states – still allow executions.

Reprieve, a human rights organisation opposed to the death penalty, said of Pfizer’s decision: “This is a critical turning point in the history of capital punishment in America.”

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, told Sky News: “Pfizer cements the industry position.

“For years states have said: ‘We can’t get this drug, let’s get another one.’

“(Pfizer) has said: ‘No, stop’.

“This is a big global manufacturer saying enough is enough so I think it will have a very palpable impact across the US.”

Dr David Nicholl, consultant neurologist and human rights activist, told Sky News the decision was “an absolute landmark”.

He added: “Now the death penalty in the US is at its lowest level since 1991. When any new method or new drug comes in it gets challenged legally.”

There have been 14 executions in the US so far in 2016 in five states: six in Texas, five in Georgia and one each in Alabama, Florida and Missouri. Last year, there were 28 in six states.

Ohio, which last executed an inmate in January 2014, has repeatedly pushed back executions while it looks for drugs.

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