Florida executes man with pet drug

Corrections mugshot shows Manuel Valle. Valle, a 61-year-old Cuban, has been on Florida's death row for decades for the 1978 murder of Louis Pena, a 41-year-old police officer. (FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS)
Despite demands from a drug manufacturer not to use its product in an execution last night, the state of Florida performed a lethal injection using the narcotic pentobarbital on Manuel Valle yesterday 30 years after being convicted of murder.

Staffan Schuberg’s pharmaceutical company Lundbeck manufactures that drug under the brand name Nembutal but implores that it was not meant to kill people. In a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), in fact, Schuberg plead that the state-sanctioned execution “contradicts everything Lundbeck is in business to do — provide therapies that improve people's lives.”

Regardless, Valle passed away last night after receiving a cocktail consisting of the drug, which is administered with the intent of knocking out inmates. Once Valle succumbed to the drug, he was administered two other narcotics to paralyze him and stop his heart.

In veterinary clinics, Nembutal is commonly combined with other agents in order to kill sickly animals.

Valle was only the first inmate in Florida to be killed with Nembutal, and that’s because other pharmaceutical reps have similar sentiments to those of Schuberg. Previously the Sunshine State used a similar anesthetic, sodium thiopental, but the manufacturer of that drug had demanded earlier that the state cease to stock it. Lundbeck followed suit in July of this year, and while the United States prisons can no longer import the drug to off their inmates, Valle is an example of a prisoner killed by the controversial drug thanks to a surplus of product.

“While the company has never sold the product directly to prisons and therefore can’t make guarantees, we are confident that our new distribution program will play a substantial role in restricting prisons’ access to Nembutal for misuse as part of lethal injection,” reads a statement that Lundbeck issued earlier this year.

Speaking to The New York Times in July, a spokesperson for the manufacturer said, “We were completely shocked and outraged” to learn that the drug was being used for executions. States and prisons never asked. We only found about it from the media. If they had asked, we would have said no.”

Following the execution of John David Duty last year in Oklahoma, advocates against the death penalty and cruel and unusual punishment voiced outrage over his death. Duty is believed to be the first American human killed with pentobarbital. Duty himself had challenged the state’s decision to use the drug before his execution as some experts have argued that the subject could remain aware and in pain when the other drugs are administered during the execution.

“No one who has been put to death has come back and testified about what it felt like,” defense attorney Jim Rowan said to CBS News at the time.

Valle was pronounced dead at 7:14 pm ET last night. He was executed over the 1978 murder of a police officer.