Lundbeck says it has moved to stop its epilepsy drug Nembutal being used as part of a lethal injection in the USA for prisoners on Death Row.

The Danish drugmaker is acting after months of protests from human rights campaigners after prisons in the USA started using Nembutal(pentobarbital sodium) as an anaesthetic in a cocktail of drugs to kill US prisoners, after restrictions were put on a previously-used product, sodium thiopental.

Lundbeck now says that Nembutal will be "supplied exclusively through a specialty pharmacy drop ship programme" that will deny distribution of the product to prisons in US states that carry out the death penalty by lethal injection. Prior to receiving Nembutal, the purchaser must sign a form stating that the drug will not be redistributed and it will not be made available for use in capital punishment.

Nembutal represents less than 1% of Lundbeck's global sales but the company has chose not to withdraw the product entirely because it "continues to meet an important medical need". The company quotes a recent survey of over 200 US doctors and pharmacists which saw 90% of the respondents state that "options for treating patients requiring emergency control of certain acute convulsive episodes would be compromised if Nembutal were no longer available".

Chief executive Ulf Wiinberg said that "Lundbeck adamantly opposes the distressing misuse of our product in capital punishment. Since learning about the misuse we have vetted a broad range of remedies - many suggested during ongoing dialogue with external experts, government officials and human rights advocates".

He added that while the company has never sold the product directly to prisons "and therefore can't make guarantees, we are confident that our new distribution programme will play a substantial role in restricting prisons' access to Nembutal".