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More than 20 American and European drug companies have already adopted such restrictions, citing either moral or business reasons. Nonetheless, the decision from one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical manufacturers is seen as a milestone.

“With Pfizer’s announcement, all F.D.A.-approved manufacturers of any potential execution drug have now blocked their sale for this purpose,” said Maya Foa, who tracks drug companies for Reprieve, a London-based human rights advocacy group. “Executing states must now go underground if they want to get hold of medicines for use in lethal injection.”

The obstacles to lethal injection have grown in the last five years as manufacturers, seeking to avoid association with executions, have barred the sale of their products to corrections agencies. Experiments with new drugs, a series of botched executions and covert efforts to obtain lethal chemicals have mired many states in court challenges.

The mounting difficulty in obtaining lethal drugs has already caused states to furtively scramble for supplies.

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Image: By CACorrections (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) – http://www.flickr.com/photos/37381942@N04/4905111750/in/set-72157624628981539/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11627466

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