For some reason, neither in this blog nor in HOOKED did I discuss the infamous Trovan case. Briefly, Pfizer was studying a new antibiotic, Trovan, when a meningitis outbreak struck Kano, Nigeria, in 1996. Pfizer physicians quickly started a randomized trial comparing Trovan to a standard antibiotic. It was later charged that parents were inadequately informed and thought their children were getting standard treatment and not being enrolled in a trial. (Doctors Without Borders was treating children with standard therapy in the same hospital, making it easy for parents to become confused.) Pfizer recently paid a $75M settlement to the Nigerian state government to settle charges. Trovan, in the end, was withdrawn from the market due to liver toxicity.
I was not expecting the WikiLeaks scandal to have any bearing on this blog, until a long-time correspondent sent me this link:
According to The Guardian, American diplomatic cables from Nigeria detailed the allegations that Pfizer hired investigators to dig up dirt on the state attorney general who was leading the prosecution against Pfizer. After finding some dirt and releasing some to the media to show they meant business, Pfizer then threatened to reveal even more damaging evidence of corruption unless the AG agreed to go easy on them. The end result was the $75M settlement, reduced(according to the cables) from an initial figure of $150M.
The Guardian added that Pfizer denies all these allegations.
Comment: If any of these allegations turn out to be true, perhaps John Le Carre will favor us with a sequel to The Constant Gardener...