Monday, 26 January 2009

Nigeria versus Pfizer

In 1996 an out break of measles, meningitis and cholera in Nigerian state of Kano; resulted in the deaths of 15,000 people. Pfizer an American company scrambled its International Team under the umbrella of global Assistance to help the Nigerian Health Service in treating and curbing the spread of the disease.

Nigerian Authorities claim that the Pfizer team without authorisation and consent from the (NAFDAC) National Agency For Drug Administration & (NMA) Nigerian Medical Authorities; tested a new a new drug Trovan; resulting in 200 children suffering blindness, deafness, cancer and death.

The State of Kano is currently seeking a colossal 7 Billion US Dollars from Pfizer for violating Nigerian law, unauthorised use of an untested drug, breach of (UN) United Nations Right of a Child and for flagrant disregard of medical ethics as stipulated by the (WHO) World Health Organisation.

The Nigerian government keen to set an example for the rest of Africa to follow have issued International Warrant for the arrest of Pfizer directors in the United States and further arrests warrants for the heads of partnering organisation in Nigeria. Despite differences in Legal systems and technicalities in Law between Nigeria and United States; that has resulted thus far in a long and protracted case through the courts.

Many countries in Africa have poor health facilities, weak structures and are desperate for assistance from international organisations that can support and assist in diagnoses and treatment of disease. Drug trials in Africa are common but supporting organisations are not justified in testing new drugs when there is an epidemic. The sole purpose should be about saving lives and not taking them. Trying to save cost and time during the development phase of a new drug is unacceptable.

Clearly regulations in Nigeria are weak and have no enforcement mechanism. There were no ethic review committees at the hospital where the drug Trovan was administered to children, despite the sole purpose of testing a new drug.

Dishonest and greedy Nigerians officials have to take some blame for this disaster. It is a fact that Nigerians collaborated and supported the trial; helping to facilitate the experiment on their own people. The Nigerian government has to bear some burden of responsibility for its negligent and easy Border and Immigration controls that allowed such research to be carried out.

This experimental Drug Trovan has since been licensed; but not for kids. Questions still remain as to why Pfizer had not used an alternative drug during the midst of this epidemic. Pfizer corporate social responsibility is questionable; especially as parents of the victims whom were mostly children, were never told that their kids were taking part in an experiment. There are unsubstantiated claims that Pfizer left Nigeria whilst the epidemic was still raging; negating their view that they were there to help the Nigerian People.


Zainab Clarkson said...

Using Poor Africans as Guinea Pigs is a Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on BLACKS from Colonial Times to the Present is on going and they should be held accountable.

However most of our African Government are the ones supporting and encouraging them to exploit us.

S.Carter said...

It is times like these that I implore people of good conscience to take a look at the theories of Dr. Francis Cress Welsing. Dr. Welsing is a psychiatrist with a theory on racism/white supremacy. She has video of her speeches on youtube. This is a situation that will continue because in the eyes of people in high places we have no value. And in the eyes of the powerful in Africa everything may have a value. Or should I say everything that has value will be exploited. While I don't have proof. I believe that to turn a blind eye may have had a price tag on it. And it costed African people their health and well-being.

Ikechukwu said...

I don't know why we prefer to chase ringworm when leprosy afflicts the feet. Pfizer came to Nigeria with the full knowledge and permission of the Federal and Kano State governments. Even NAFDAC endorsed their coming. All the processes were followed. The papers are available in the courts. It is convenient for some Nigerian officials to distance themselves from Pfizer now. That is how we always behave. If our politicians were not such compulsive thieves, our hospitals will be able to cope with epidemics. But we always require the help of foreigners and then turn round to blackmail them. May I ask who was responsible for all the deaths and disabilities caused by polio and cholera in the same axis of the country? We abdicate our responsibilities and then look for scapegoats. It is very unkind. Anyone who has bothered to study the Pfizer case will see that most of the claims of the government cannot stand in court. Many of those who did not benefit from Pfizer's treatment are long dead - from meningitis. The disease is a killer anyday. But instead of putting our hospital facilities in good shape, we resort to cheap blackmail, playing on sentiments and bandying fake statistics all over the place. The truth is that it has never been conclusively established that Pfizer's treatment led to the death of even ONE patient. Mercifully, out-of-court settlement talks are ongoing. No sensible person would do anything to jeopardise that. Let's allow the parties to sort out themselves at the talks. And let's encourage our governments to wake up to their responsibilities and cater for the health needs of their people.

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