Wednesday, June 06, 2007

trust us, we're a drug company

Drug companies. What's not to like? The history of the pharmaceutical industry has a past almost as murky as it present. I'm not talking about creating diseases because they've concocted new treatments (statin drugs come to mind, sure hypercholesterol can cause heart attacks and strokes, but being on the drug gives a false sense of securiy as to your longevity) but their habit of testing new pharmaceutical marvels on vulnerable communities. Beyond bunnies, it's a habit of these companies to target under privileged nations and see just how many people it may kill or maim.

The history of the oral contraceptive ("birth control pill") is a classic example of imperialism. It was tested in Haiti and Puerto Rico, where the company took little interest in young women who died of embolisms. It wasn't til nice middle class white women began to fall that their target patients actually stood up and questioned the safety of the drug.

Pfizer, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies, has been at it again, this time in Nigeria.

Nigeria sues Pfizer for $8bn over kids' deaths


ABUJA: Nigeria has filed a lawsuit for $US7 billion ($8.4billion) in damages from Pfizer over a drug test in which about 200 children were either killed or deformed, court officials in Abuja said yesterday.

The federal Government suit says the children suffered various degrees of adverse effects ranging from deafness to muteness, brain damage, paralysis, loss of sight and slurred speech, while 11 died.

The federal action follows a similar suit filed last month by Kano, Nigeria's largest state, which is seeking $US2.75billion ($3.3 billion) from the pharmaceutical giant.

Both lawsuits centre around the events of April 1996, when the World Health Organisation and Pfizer volunteered to help in Kano following an outbreak of a number of diseases that killed more than 3000 people.

The Kano state suit alleges that Pfizer treated 100 meningitis-infected children in the state with an experimental antibiotic, Trovan. A further 100 children, who were control patients in the study, received an approved antibiotic, ceftriaxone - but the dose was lower than recommended, the families' lawyers allege.

The federal lawsuit echoes those charges. "Pfizer devised a scheme under which it misrepresented and failed to disclose its primary motive in seeking to participate in giving care to the victims of the epidemic," it alleges. "Pfizer never disclosed that it intended to experiment on vulnerable victims or conduct any clinical trials without the necessary approvals from regulatory agencies in Nigeria but pretended it came to render humanitarian service."

The case was adjourned till June 26 for hearing.

In a statement released in response to the Kano state lawsuit last week, Pfizer denied the charges against it.

"The 1996 Trovan clinical study was conducted with the full knowledge of the Nigerian Government and in a responsible and ethical way consistent with the company's abiding commitment to patient safety," said the statement. "Any allegations in these lawsuits to the contrary are simply untrue - they weren't valid when they were first raised years ago and they're not valid today."

The Kano case and a related criminal action against Pfizer officers were both postponed on Monday after the plaintiff's counsel failed to show up for the initial court hearing.

The judge hearing the case said criminal proceedings lodged against company officers would begin on July 4, while a related civil case seeking the monetary damages was to begin on July 9.

State and company officials were not available for comment. Nigeria's Government is in disarray after the May 29 inauguration of new governors, state assemblies and elected federal officers, including a new president.

In the Abuja civil case, the Government is asking for $US500 million for treatment, compensation and support for the victims of the drug test and their families. Another $US450 million is earmarked for damages related to money spent to overcome societal misgivings related to the test, and $US1 billion to pay for health programs. The federal Government is also seeking $US5billion as general damages.


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Blogger Bwca said...

You won't get an argument from me.
Enter BigPharma into any search engine and many very depressing pages will unfold for your horror.

We know that ETHICS is a component of qualifying for medical practice, but it appears that the ethics learned, can be dumped very neatly to make room for megaBucks. *sigh*

May I add my own disease story here please?
I have a cold. It's awful.
I caught it despite having been completely alone for a week.
The only people I encountered were in the organic fruits shop, milkbar and bakery of the tiny commercial centre of Mt.Dandenong where I am housesitting.
I did not get even slightly CLOSE to any of these people.
A friend says the germs were probably on the money. drat drat drat - that must be why it's called filthy lucre.*cough cough*

2:55 pm  
Blogger Bwca said...

I see you have "Brownie would like you to rack off" in your links. Brownie has now racked off itself ... and
re: " Nigeria has filed a lawsuit for $US7 billion ($8.4billion) in damages from Pfizer over a drug test in which about 200 children"

what I know of Nigerian ways, I cannot imagine a win would mean that the poor little things would each get one 200th of the 7Billn.

2:59 pm  
Blogger Justine said...

tsk tsk... *shakes head*

So much corruption in Nigeria anyway - what BWCA said.

Haven't heard any new stirrings from the high court of Chennai but it looks like Novartis isn't going to win on the TRIPS thing.
[Despite not being able to say a single sensible sentence at the moment, I am nonetheless keeping a close eye on it.]

7:43 pm  

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