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January 23, 2017

Only in America

The US is nothing if not a country full of real surprises. One has to look no further than at this week’s inauguration to have that confirmed.

But of relevance to those wanting access the choice of a peaceful death, and in particular those in the US States that have now passed legislation granting permission for the dying to access lethal drugs, is this.

The Canadian manufacturer of the barbiturate drug, Seconal, has decided to hike the price. And, not just a little, but by a massive 200%!

As far back as April 2016, the Seattle Times reported that Valeant Pharmaceuticals International of Quebec had raised the price of a 10gm dose of the drug from its original price of ~$150 to a staggering $3000!

Why not shop elsewhere I hear you say?

The equivalent (or even preferred) barbiturate, Nembutal, the drug universally used in Europe for an assisted suicide, is not (legally) available in North America. This is because of its role in US executions.

There can be no justification for this sudden price rise other than corporate greed. The only explanation is that the company realized its marketing edge – with the passage of assisted suicide laws in California, Colorado and Canada – and decided to go in for a killing – so to speak!

And while Valeant has been getting rich,  it was quickly becoming clear that some in the US will miss the cut. Not because they aren’t sick enough to qualify (even if they could convince a panel of doctors that they are of sound mind), but simply because they are just too poor: too poor to die.

So the call has gone out for a cheap, peaceful, lethal alternative.

The result is the proposed mixture of three common (and cheap) drugs

  • The 1900’s sedative Chloral Hydrate
  • Morphine
  • The slow-acting Barbiturate, Phenobarb (which is still used as an anti-convulsant)

There is little doubt that this combination will work and work well.

It will be a little slower than the hitherto unaffordable Seconal (or unavailable Nembutal). But it will be reliable.

Those who have taken the combination have certainly died.

Although reports suggest that it does leave a literal bad taste in the mouth. Not just from the thought of having been forced to use a drug(s) that is second best, but because of the very real burning taste that comes with drinking the significant amount of chloral hydrate.

This is why in mid-2016 a new non-burning cheap drug mixture was developed.

This new mixture comprised four drugs:

  • Morphine (again)
  • Valium &
  • The cardio-toxic combination of Digoxin and the B Blocker Propanolol.

Total cost of the new combo ~$500: a bit more afordable than the $3000 a pop Seconal. And very much on a price par with illegal Nembutal, as it is purchased over the Net.

The new combo, known as DDMP, is now used widely in the US.

Valeant may have, metaphorically, cut their own throat.

To regain market share they will have to slash their price.

A script price of closer to the $100 it actually costs to manufacture the drug would be a good step (after all Valeant, did not invent the barbiturates: that was down to Alfred Baeyer back in 1864).

But for those who want absolute control, with none of the restrictive legislative entanglement of the new US and Canadian laws, the appeal of having $500 / 25gm of pure Nembutal powder in the cupboard, just in case, remains strong, although illegal (we have to add that bit).

However, with a shelf life better than 30 years, some say the choice is a no-brainer.

The issue will be explored in greater detail in the next Update to The Peaceful Pill eHandbook.

For more information see:

Seattle Times

Kaiser Health News

Philip Nitschke

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