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Nigeria Orders Arrest of Pharmaceutical Officials

December 31, 2007 12:03 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The arrest order is the latest step in Nigeria’s efforts to hold Pfizer, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, responsible for deaths during a 1996 drug trial. The company has denied wrongdoing.

30-Second Summary

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In 1996, a spinal meningitis epidemic in Nigeria infected more than 100,000 people and killed over 10,000. Pfizer employees used the outbreak to test the antibiotic trovafloxacin, also known as Trovan, which was undergoing clinical trials.

Pfizer recruited 200 children with meningitis, and gave half of them Trovan and the other half another medication. About five of the children are believed to have died.

After a 2000 Washington Post series on pharmaceutical testing in the third world, Nigerian officials began to look into the trial. They eventually filed criminal charges.

Nigerian state and federal officials are seeking more than $9 billion in compensation, claiming that Pfizer didn’t have the proper permission, killed children and left others with permanent disabilities.

Pfizer says the trial saved lives, and no participants suffered permanent ill effects that were unrelated to spinal meningitis. The parents, the company said, were fully informed and gave their consent.

Furthermore, some officials in Nigeria have also blamed the Trovan trial for a boycott of the polio vaccine in parts of the country in 2005 and 2006.

The Trovan case has prompted comparisons with the John le Carré novel, made into a movie in 2005, “The Constant Gardener,” which is about a pharmaceutical company’s conspiracy in an unnamed African country.

Others argue that clinical trials are essential to develop drugs that will eradicate diseases only found in Third World countries.

The Nigerian governments’ motives have also been questioned.

Headline Links: Arrest warrants issued

Background: Nigeria starts court proceedings against Pfizer

Reaction: Pfizer’s account of the Trovan trial

Opinion & Analysis: Pharmaceutical testing, fictional parallels, motives questioned

Reference: Meningitis

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