Almost 15 years after the fact, Nigerians are officially allowed to sue Pfizer over the company’s illegal use of a new antibiotic on their children.
Pfizer is accused of illegally testing a drug, Trovan, in Nigeria and then killing 11 children and injuring 181 others during a meningitis epidemic in 1996. Trovan was banned in the EU in 1999 and in the U.S. was first restricted by the FDA to adult use and soon after to adult emergency care only, yet this case has been dragged out for years.
The BBC reports that the families in Nigeria say they did not consent to Pfizer’s testing of the antibiotic, which in addition to the deaths resulted in blindness, paralysis, and brain damage.
Pfizer has since tried to argue that the Nigerians cannot sue under the Alien Tort Statute, and apparently hopes to dismiss the case on grounds that Nigeria will be a more suitable place for the case to be heard—although the U.S. government does not agree, having already urged the Supreme Court to reject, as it did yesterday without comment, Pfizer’s appeal.
The Supreme Court has issued a few disappointing rulings recently, and this case is still open, but at least the Court didn’t decide it should be closed.
A Big Pharma conspiracy and hospital error are possibly behind the deaths of dozens of heart patients, said the owner of a Pakistani drug manufacturer arrested in the case. His conspiracy theory chalks up the incident to “propaganda” from multinational companies to “suppress the local industry,” reports The Express Tribune.
The unnamed owner was one of three arrested on charges of manufacturing “substandard” heart medication administered by the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, according to the report. The three manufacturers are Alfalah Pharma, Mega Pharmaceuticals and Pharmawise Laboratories. The story did not identify which company was owned by the outspoken executive.
As we reported Monday, heavy metal contamination is thought to have caused the deaths.
In a separate report, the Tribune says drug inspectors found manufacturing violations and “unhygienic conditions” at the plants. Official and unofficial accounts put the number of dead between 25 and 100, with an estimated 300 people being treated and 2,000 at risk.
Newly available emails and internal Merck documents reveal the company was far from concerned or surprised when ONJ-links to Fosamax surfaced in the early 2000’s and launched elaborate spin campaigns to keep the $3 billion a year pill afloat. In fact, animal studies revealed ONJ in rats given bisphosphonates (the class of drugs Fosamax belongs to) as early as 1977 Kimmel admitted under oath in 2008.
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of patients who say they developed ONJ after dental procedures like tooth extraction because they took Fosamax. Treating ONJ is almost impossible said dentists and oral surgeons quoted the Review-Journalin 2005, because “further surgery in an effort to correct the problem only exacerbates it, leaving the patient with even more exposed bone and even more disﬁgured,” Jaw removal, bone grafts, and even tracheostomies were reported by the News-Press in 2006. “Even short-term oral use of alendronate [Fosamax] led to ONJ in a subset of patients after certain dental procedures were performed,” read a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association in 2009.