Sunday, May 07, 2006

Life imitating art? This is similar to the plot of "The Constant Gardener" flick...

A panel of Nigerian medical experts has concluded that Pfizer Inc. violated international law during a 1996 epidemic by testing an unapproved drug on children with brain infections at a field hospital.

That finding is detailed in a lengthy Nigerian government report that has remained unreleased for five years, despite inquiries from the children's attorneys and from the media. The Washington Post recently obtained a copy of the confidential report, which is attracting congressional interest. It was provided by a source who asked to remain anonymous because of personal safety concerns.

The report concludes that Pfizer never obtained authorization from the Nigerian government to give the unproven drug to nearly 100 children and infants. Pfizer selected the patients at a field hospital in the city of Kano, where the children had been taken to be treated for an often deadly strain of meningitis. At the time, Doctors Without Borders was dispensing approved antibiotics at the hospital.

Pfizer's experiment was "an illegal trial of an unregistered drug," the Nigerian panel concluded, and a "clear case of exploitation of the ignorant."

The test came to public attention in December 2000, when The Post published the results of a year-long investigation into overseas pharmaceutical testing. The news was met in Nigeria with street demonstrations, lawsuits and demands for reform.

Pfizer contended that its researchers traveled to Kano with a purely philanthropic motive, to help fight the epidemic, which ultimately killed more than 15,000 Africans. The committee rejected that explanation, pointing out that Pfizer physicians completed their trial and left while "the epidemic was still raging."

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