Pfizer faces criminal charges in Nigeria

You all thought that John Le Carre’s ‘The Constant Gardner’ was fiction did you?

Joe Stephens in the Washington Post writes:

Officials in Nigeria have brought criminal charges for the drugmaker’s alleged role in the deaths of numerous children who received an unapproved drug during a meningitis epidemic, The Washington Post reports. Authorities in Kano, the country’s largest state, filed eight charges this month related to the 1996 clinical trial, including counts of criminal conspiracy and voluntarily causing grievous harm. They also filed a civil lawsuit seeking more than $2 billion in damages and restitution.

The move represents a rare – perhaps unprecedented – instance in which the developing world’s anger at multinational drug companies has boiled over into criminal charges, The Post writes. It also represents the latest in a string of public-relations blows stemming from the decade-old clinical trial, in which Pfizer says it acted ethically.

The government alleges that Pfizer researchers selected 200 children and infants from crowds at a makeshift epidemic camp in Kano and gave about half of the group an untested antibiotic called Trovan. Researchers gave the other children what the lawsuit describes as a dangerously low dose of a comparison drug made by Hoffmann-La Roche. Nigerian officials say Pfizer’s actions resulted in the deaths of an unspecified number of children and left others deaf, paralyzed, blind or brain-damaged.

The lawsuit says that the researchers did not obtain consent from the children’s families and that the researchers knew Trovan to be an experimental drug with life-threatening side effects that was “unfit for human use.” Parents were banned from the ward where the drug trial occurred, the suit says, and the company left no medical records in Nigeria. Pfizer and its doctors “agreed to do an illegal act,” the criminal charges state, and behaved “in a manner so rash and negligent as to endanger human life.”

Aliyu Umar, who served as Kano attorney general until earlier this month says “We realize we are the Third World and we need assistance,” Umar said. “But we frown on people who think they can take advantage of us, especially if it’s for profit. That’s why we decided we needed to take action against Pfizer. Those people responsible should be punished, whether in Nigeria or in the United States, for what they did to our people.”

Le Carre himself said about The Constant Gardner “By comparison with the reality, my story [is] as tame as a holiday postcard.”

5 Responses to “Pfizer faces criminal charges in Nigeria”

  1. truthman30 Says:

    The constant gardener indeed…

    The pharma industry is like a neglected garden full of weeds which are strangling the life out of patients …

    The lawsuit says that the researchers did not obtain consent from the children’s families and that the researchers knew Trovan to be an experimental drug with life-threatening side effects that was “unfit for human use.” Parents were banned from the ward where the drug trial occurred, the suit says, and the company left no medical records in Nigeria. Pfizer and its doctors “agreed to do an illegal act,” the criminal charges state, and behaved “in a manner so rash and negligent as to endanger human life.”

    Absolutely horrific behaviour from Pfizer…
    This kind of thing turns my stomach….

  2. Matthew Holford Says:

    Not that I wish to suggest any criminality, on the part of GSK (God forbid that I would be so rash!), but weren’t there reports, recently, about dodgy trials on kids in Russia, of some crappy vaccine, or other, without parents’ consent?

    Matt

  3. truthman30 Says:

    Not that I wish to suggest any criminality, on the part of GSK (God forbid that I would be so rash!), but weren’t there reports, recently, about dodgy trials on kids in Russia, of some crappy vaccine, or other, without parents’ consent?

    Oh there has been many reports of GSK “alleged” Criminal activity over the years… But it seems that these reports (particularly in poorer countries rise and disappear just as quickly… )

    Here’s one from 2004

    Italian police are investigating 4,400 doctors over allegations of an illegal incentives scheme involving UK drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, officials say.
    The doctors are said to have been offered cash and other incentives in a 228m euro (£152m) scheme to boost their use of Glaxo products.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3754569.stm

    And one from from this year…

    BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhuanet) — British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) PLC is under criminal investigation by Russian prosecutors looking into vaccine trials that were allegedly conducted on children without parents’ permission, according to authorities.

    The Prosecutor General’s office said in a statement dated Monday and posted on its website Friday investigators began the probe at a hospital in Volgograd, about 550 miles southeast of Moscow, after several children who received the vaccines fell ill and parents raised questions.

    Prosecutors said the deputy director of the hospital had been paid 50,000 U.S. dollars to participate in the trials and that such tests on minors were illegal in Russia. They also said parents had been told the vaccines were humanitarian aid.

    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-03/05/content_5803482.htm

    And here’s one from 2004 again…

    A new BBC documentary exposes how the city of New York has been forcing HIV-positive children under its supervision to be used as human guinea pigs in tests for experimental AIDS drug trials. We speak with the filmmaker Jamie Doran and Vera Sharav of the Alliance for Human Research Protection. [includes rush transcript]
    A new BBC documentary exposes how the city of New York has been forcing HIV positive children under its supervision to be used as human guinea pigs in tests for experimental AIDS drug trials.

    The BBC identified pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline as one of the companies that provided the experimental drugs for the tests. In an email to Democracy Now! GlaxoSmithKline stated “pharmaceutical companies are not directly involved in the recruitment, enrolment or participation of patients in such trials.” GSK went on to say “the FDA encourages studies in pediatric patients. Clinical trials involving children and orphans are therefore legal and not unusual.”

    http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/12/22/151230

    And another from 2003..

    Patients used as drug ‘guinea pigs’
    Firms pay out millions to doctors to test medicines

    When Italia Sudano went for a check-up with her GP, Dr Robert Adams, she was in good health. Her husband had died a few months earlier and her blood pressure was a little high.
    Yet nothing could have prepared Sudano, 72, for the nightmare that was to follow and the discovery of a trail of greed and fraud that went right to the heart of the medical profession.

    She was astonished to discover that her trusted GP had been using her as a guinea pig by giving her tablets which had not been medically approved. Worse still, he was being paid to do so by a pharmaceutical company.

    It emerged that over the previous five years Adams had earned more than £100,000 from drug companies, including the European giants AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer. They were all paying him to test their new drugs on his patients.

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/nhs/story/0,,892118,00.html

    Yes it seems that wherever GSK go and whatever GSK is involved , some kind of “alleged” ciminal activity soon follows…

    You would have to wonder, what ever happens to these cases?… ( we never seem to hear anymore about them…)

  4. Matthew Holford Says:

    “Clinical trials involving children and orphans are therefore legal and not unusual.”

    I’m struggling to find an adequate form of words, here, which doesn’t suggest that those who have custody/guardianship over such (disadvantaged?) children and orphans are not necessarily entirely disinterested. The City of New York? In the person(s) of whom, I wonder?

    I suppose if one reduces one’s fellow human beings to commodities of production, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise, when one wakes up one morning to find that one views them as dispensable. Especially if one was being paid to think that. After all, if one was not acting in a person’s interests, but in one’s own, which caused one to make a decision that was in one’s own interests, and not in that other person’s, and one knew that, then one would have to reduce the other person to something less than human, in order to justify that conduct. Rather like slavery, in fact.

    Matt

  5. Matthew Holford Says:

    Hey,

    What with all the business we’re generating, I think we should demand a retainer from Netrank. Maybe an option on any future IPO, too!

    Matt


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