Pfizer: At Last a Drug Company Held to Account!
By Hwaa Irfan
As more and more are being held to account for their actions in name of the public, it is good to see a drugs company joining the queue. It is only when this purging is fulfilled that the everyday person can begin to reclaim control over their lives.
While the Monsanto run Food and Drugs Administration continues to pass dangerous drugs as safe despite the mounting evidence that is publicly available, the much commented news that U.S-based multinational drugs company Pfizer met one of its nemesis abroad in Nigeria by being obliged to pay compensation to its victims, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg! More is to follow as 200 children took part in the trial when the state of Kano was hit by a meningitis epidemic in 1996!
In the ancient city of Kano, Nigeria, after 15 years of fighting for their rights, an experimental drug Trovan underwent a drug trial that involved human lives, lives that ended in the death of 4 children. This is a terrible indictment on a company that is meant to be the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company. The settlement of U.S$175,000 (£108,000) cannot return those lives, but at least it holds a pharmaceutical company to account when they place profits over welfare.
One hundred children were given the experimental oral drug, an antibiotic while others were given a control, the standard Ceftriaxone for the treatment of meningitis from which there were also deaths. Trovan was approved for adults in the U.S. in 1997, but not for children! Where was the ethics that Pfizer declared when instead of changing the treatment when the children did not respond, they were kept on Trovan according to the eye-witness report of Doctors without Border’s physicians. Trovan is a known hepatotoxic that interferes with the DNA of bacteria, and as we known the magic-bullet theory does not work! What ended up devastating the state of Kano, was not meningitis, but the trail left by Trovan: deaths, brain damage, paralysis and slurred speech.
Trovan enters the milk if taken by a nursing mother.
Being an African country, the initial accusations by the company were due to mal-administration, i.e. the does given was too low hence the ensuing brain damage, paralysis, and slurred speech. Not being a population with years of consuming modern medicines as the cure all, the body reacts quickly to the point that even a parent can tell that the problem is the drug.
Then Pfizer argued that it was the meningitis not Trovan that led to the deaths, and the many deformities of the survivors. At the time of the trials, Doctors without Borders heavily criticized the clinical trial as they were also in Kano at the time trying to treat the meningitis.
Instead of settling, a Wikileak disclosed that Pfizer hired investigators to look for evidence to disqualify the claims a disclosure that was a result of a US diplomatic cables. This involved looking for cases of corruption against Federal Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa, then to expose Aondoakaa using corporate media, which took place.
One cable noted that one of Pfizer’s negotiators, Petrosinelli had exploited the situation through former Nigerian Head of State Yakubu Gowon (who became head of state through a military coup) who in turn spoke with Kano State Governor Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau to reduce the settlement from U.S$150mn to U.S$75mn, a common tactic by U.S. multinational companies at home and abroad. This also involved the aim to drop the court cases.
It was in 2009 to save public embarrassment of Pfizer, that an out of court settlement of U.$75mn was made with the state of Kano. Those families had to submit DNA samples of 546 saliva swabs to prove they were the parents of the dead according to Abubakar Bashir Wali, head of the claims verification committee. However, the results were not released after 6 weeks as everyone was informed, but after 10 months!
Between those who wanted to not pay, those who wanted to line their pockets, and those who sought justice despite pressures, somehow, justice prevailed. In the words of one the lawyers Mr. Ishola of Omotimirin, Ishola & Associates:
“How can you be a judge in a case where you are the accused?”
This was in reference to the 6-membered Trovan Settlement Committee (3 appointees from Kano state, and 3 appointees from Pfizer). It was clear to Ishola that it was an attempt to pay 200 victims a paltry $2 million while the government counsel would earn U.S$15 million for handling the case.
“Their aim was to make money,” argued Mr. Ishola.
“If their aim was not to make money, they would not collect money until the victims have been compensated.”
Each family receiving U.S$175,000 from the Healthcare/Meningitis Trust Fund, and is managed by an independent board of trustees in Kano.
Pfizer also agreed to sponsor health projects to the value of U.S$35mn for those affected, but this is just a way of securing their market in Nigeria.
Not the First Time!
Zoloft is another questionable drug that Pfizer has produced. The effects of Zoloft can be lethal as highlighted in the revealing study of psychiatrist David Healy from Wales, who looked at 20 healthy volunteers. Half were given Zoloft and the other half were given an antidepressant that does not target the brain chemical serotonin. After two weeks there was a switch in drugs. The SSRI recipients had become dangerously agitated and suicidal. After the two-week period, a 30 year old wife and mother became obsessed with the idea of throwing herself in front of a car. Even though Healy was surprised, he remained neutral on the subject and served as an expert witness in many cases gaining access to many company records of clinical trials.
In a civil action against Pfizer, the manufacturers of Zoloft, Healy discovered an unpublished 1980 study in which healthy female volunteers were given Zoloft or a placebo. After four days, the trial was cancelled due to complaints of agitation and apprehension.
Healy was also a witness in the Forsyth case, which changed his position on SSRIs. The 61-year old father and husband, William Forsyth, retired in Hawaii after a successful life. Retirement proved difficult for him affecting marital relations. Marriage counseling helped until three years later when he became unsettled again. He was prescribed Prozac by a local psychiatrist. By the second day he felt terrible and put himself into hospital care. Still taking Prozac, he felt well enough to go home after 10 days. His grown son and daughter returned to find both parents dead in a pool of blood on the 11th day. Their mother had been stabbed 15 times and their father impaled himself. A year after the incident, there were 160 suits filed against Eli Lilly ranging from homicides and suicides to other forms of violence. Eli Lilly had engineered Zoloft for Pfizer.
Making a Deadly Profit
Pfizer is the largest and richest pharmaceutical company in the world and at one time produced one-fifth of the US wealth with Viagra making Pfizer a household name. President George Bush Senior once headed both Pfizer and Lilly from 1977 – 1979. Both Pfizer and Eli Lilly are sponsors of the Manhattan Institute: the right-wing think-tank founded by William Casey. William Casey helped to bring Nazi experts over to the US during and after WWII who went on to pioneer the genetics program – eugenics – including the Genome Project. William Casey was also a former CIA director during the Reagan era.
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Ibekwe, N. “Lawyers, Not Victims, Made Money From Pfizer Settlement.” http://234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/Home/5663712-146/lawyers_not_victims_made_money_from.csp
Smith, D. “Pfizer Pays Out To Nigerian Families Of Meningitis Drug Trial Victims.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/11/pfizer-nigeria-meningitis-drug-compensation
“Pfizer Pays Nigeria Drug-Test Victims.”http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/pfizer-pays-nigeria-drug-test-victims/story-fn3dxity-1226113486474
“US Embassy, Pfizer, Aondoakaa and $75m Settlement For Kano Drug Trial Victims.” http://www.transparencyng.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2867:us-embassy-pfizer-aondoakaa-and-75m-settlement-for-kano-drug-trial-victims&catid=235:wikileaks-on-nigeria&Itemid=170