Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Pfizer Directors Declared Wanted

A federal High Court in Abuja yesterday issued a warrant of arrest for eight former directors of a pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer Specialties Ltd.

Those affected were directors who were on the board of the company when a controversial Trovan clinical trial took place in Kano in which over 200 persons, mostly children, died allegedly as a result of the unapproved trial.

Already, a former medical director of the company, Dr. Dogunro, has been arrested by the police.

Others affected by the warrant of arrest, including the immediate past managing director, Ngozi Edozien, are said to be on the run.

LEADERSHIP checks revealed that the corporate headquarters of Pfizer in Lagos was padlocked throughout yesterday, while most of its management staff refused to turn up at their duty post, apparently to avoid being picked up by security agents.

Both the federal and Kano State governments had instituted criminal charges against Pfizer over its alleged role in the deaths of the children who received the drug during a meningitis epidemic in 1996.

They are claiming $700 million in damages and restitution from Pfizer.

On its own side, the government had alleged Pfizer researchers selected 200 children and infants from crowds in Kano and gave about half of the group an untested anti-biotic, Trovan, without any approval from any authority.

The criminal charges had also named Pfizer Nigeria subsidiary and the eight former senior staff.

Trovan came to public disclosure in 2000 when The Washington Post published the result of a year-long investigation into pharmaceutical testing in the developing world.

And Nigerians who were confronted with the shocking views went to the streets demonstrating and demanding for investigation.

The families of the children who Pfizer used allegedly as laboratory guinea pigs were led to believe and in fact understood that the defendants were providing their children with voluntary relief, clearly focused humanitarian medical intervention and nothing more, the suit had said.

Although Pfizer is currently contesting the case, but the investigating committee into Pfizer drug trial in Kano earlier raised by then minister of health, Dr. Tim Menakaya, and headed by Dr. Abdulsalam Nasidi had indicted Pfizer, which instituted a legal case at the Federal High Court to quash the investigation committee's report.

Pfizer's insistence that it is innocent has not prevented accusation and counter-accusation from flowing.

The company has consistently maintained that all necessary approvals were sought and obtained from relevant federal and state agencies before administering the drug in Kano State.

"We did the right thing and we answered the country's call," the then managing director, Ms. Ngozi Edozien, told LEADERSHIP recently.

But the Federal Ministry of Health, Kano State Ministry of Health and NAFDAC have denied approving the administration of the drug in Kano.

The case comes up today.

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