Pfizer’s Nigerian nightmare. Or is it the other way around?

Children who participated in an allegedly botched Pfizer drug trial in Nigeria in 1996 may still have their day in an American court. The US Supreme Court has refused to block a suit brought against Pfizer by their families. The plaintiffs contend that Pfizer tested its experimental antibiotic Trovan during a meningitis epidemic in Nigeria without following due process of written informed consent. Nor did it warn the families of the drug’s side-effects or inform them that an approved drug was being distributed free by an aid organisation nearby. It also allegedly administered a low dose of a control (approved) antibiotic to make Trovan seem more efficacious.  Some children in the trial died while others suffered lasting damage. See here for details.

Pfizer – which has denied all wrongdoing – had insisted that the lawsuits should be filed in Nigeria not the US but the plaintiffs allege that Nigeria’s “corrupt” courts will not deliver justice. Pfizer has already paid the Nigerian government $75mn to settle claims.

This is a case that India should follow closely to its logical conclusion. To know why, look no further than Bhopal to see how good the country is at protecting its people. Now put that together with the pace of drug trials in the country and the absence of adequate oversight.


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