Pfizer pays out £50m after deaths of children

Posted on the 6th April 2009

The pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, has paid out £50m in a lawsuit relating to a drug trial it conducted on children in Nigeria in 1996.

The US company planned to test a new ‘blockbuster’ broad spectrum antibiotic, Trovan, and sent a team of its doctors to a Nigerian slum where there had been a meningitis outbreak. What Pfizer’s called a ‘humanitarian mission’ was, according to its accusers, really no more than an unlicensed medical trial on critically sick children.

According to national newspaper reports, Pfizer’s doctors set themselves up just metres away from a medical aid station run by Médecin Sans Frontières, which was dispensing proven treatments. They chose 200 sick children. Half were given Trovan; half were given an antibiotic from a rival company.

Eleven of the children died and many more suffered organ failure, blindness, paralysis and other disabilities. The Pfizer team packed up and left after two weeks. Eighteen months later, a Pfizer employer wrote to the Chief Executive stating that this trial had violated ethical rules. He was fired the next day.

The EU has banned the sale of Trovan and it has been withdrawn from sale in the US.

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