Drug company giant Pfizer has agreed to settle out of court – to the tune of $75 million – in the case of its unlicensed medical trials on Nigerian children during a meningitis outbreak in 1996, which led to 11 deaths and serious injuries such as organ failure and brain damage in others.
The Nigerian Health Ministry called the experiment “an illegal trial of an unregistered drug” and a “clear case of exploitation of the ignorant.”
Pfizer tested their experimental antibiotic Trovan on children without the consent of their parents in the midst of an outbreak that ultimately killed 11,000, claiming it was a “humanitarian mission.” The drug company stated that the trial was conducted ethically and with the permission of the Nigerian government, but both claims have been disputed.
If Pfizer is going to cough up $75 million for a settlement, one wonders what would have come out in court. The drug was never approved for U.S. children, but the FDA gave the green light to its use in adults in 1998. Trovan was banned in the European Union in 1999, and the U.S. FDA restricted its use severely after liver failures were reported in adults.
“The Constant Gardener” by John Le Carre was reportedly inspired by the events of 1996, but set in Kenya instead of Nigeria.