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- Children were guinea pigs

The world's largest pharmaceutical company Pfizer is being sued for a total of 58 billion in Nigeria.


By Magnus Borgen

[trial] On Friday, July 20, the lawsuit begins for two lawsuits in Nigeria, where Pfizer is accused of illegal experimentation with drugs. In the 1990s, at least eleven children died after testing a new drug from the drug company.

- Without permission

In 1996, around 15.000 people died from an outbreak of infectious meningitis in northern Nigeria. The country's authorities claim that Pfizer used children as guinea pigs when the epidemic broke out, by testing out the new vaccine Trovan. The preparation was found to cause severe adverse effects for a number of children. Nigerian authorities claim that around 50 children died as a result of using Trovan, while Pfizer, for its part, claims there is only evidence to claim that eleven children died.

Nigeria claims that the country did not know it was a previously untested and unauthorized drug, and today believes it was a gambling with children's lives and health. In a 2001 report, Nigerian health authorities are investigating the matter, and it is concluded that Pfizer was never allowed to test the preparation on Nigerian children. The report was kept secret for unknown reasons until May 2006, when the Washington Post newspaper began digging into the case. Doctor Abdulsalam Nasidi, the head of the panel that authored the Nigerian report, has later claimed that he received death threats in connection with his work.

Serious side effects

Trovan was approved for adult use in the United States in 1997. Five to six other countries have also allowed the use of the drug, but not without warnings. In 1998, the US Medicines Agency began receiving reports of serious liver damage in Trovan patients, and the same year the US authorities issued a notice requesting special attention be paid to the side effects of the drug.

- This case was last up for consideration by us in 1999, says information adviser Berit Rekve in the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

She states that Pfizer obtained marketing authorization for Trovan in Norway in February 1999. In June of that year, the license was suspended in the EU, after Pfizer himself announced that there were a total of 152 reports of serious liver damage, including eight deaths, using the preparation .

No comment

Trovan was not marketed in Norway when the security problems arose, and according to Ny Tid's experience, Pfizer has not later applied for a permit for sale in Europe.

Ny Tid has been in contact with the CEO of Pfizer Norway, Håvard Selby Ebbestad, who does not wish to comment on the matter. Ebbestad refers to Pfizer's communications manager Hans Petter Strifeldt. Ny Tid has been in vain looking for comments from a holidaying Strifeldt. Grethe Aasved, director of public relations at Pfizer, refers Ny Tid to information director Sven-Eric Söder at Pfizer Sweden for comments on this matter. Söder does not wish to comment on behalf of Pfizer Norway.

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