Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nigerian frauds and big pharma.....

One normally associates Nigerian frauds with those sob story emails that you get from time to time, but the recent Wikileaks exposés showed up another kind of fraud that happened some time ago in Nigeria.

Back in 1996, there was an epidemic of meningitis in Nigeria, and big pharma Pfizer, with a new antibiotic trovafloxacin (Trovan) in hand, seized the opportunity to conduct a clinical trial on Nigerian children who came down with symptoms of the disease. All well and good except that the study did not receive ethics approval as was legally required under Good Clinical Practice. Pfizer claimed the study received approval to proceed, and an approval letter was produced supposedly from the ethics committee. The trouble was that there was no such ethics committee at that time. The lead investigator of the trial, Dr. Abdulhamid Isa Dutse, subsequently admitted that the letter could have been drafted 1 year after the study started and then backdated.

If this is true, this is fraud, plain and simple. Clinical trials fraud. Pfizer has however denied culpability and Dr. Abdulhamid Isa Dutse apparently is now the Chief Medical Officer of the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital.


The incident would have been consigned to the history books if not for the recent Wikileaks revelations, which pointed a finger at Pfizer trying to manipulate legal proceedings by uncovering unsavoury details about corrupted practices by Nigerian Federal Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa, so as to pressure him to drop the legal suits against the company.

If these revelations are true, they do show that even big companies who are supposed to be ethical are not above playing dirty. More recently, some more Wikileaks exposés, this time about New Zealand, show the shadowy hand of big pharma in trying to unseat Helen Clark who was Health Minister at that time.

I hope our Singapore government can keep big pharma at arms length. Sometimes I feel they have become to close to big pharma because of the need to cultivate their engagement in our attempts to grow the life sciences and biomedical industry. They have to be careful not to let big pharma have too big a voice in shaping our national strategies.


Anonymous said...

The Constant Gardener (movie) came out about one year before the Washington Post reported on Nigeria's committee report that indicted Pfizer on this issue. It's amazing that the story line is almost identical to the Pfizer Pf*#ck-up. Thank God that drug isn't approved for children. Oh, wait, wasn't it used on children while Doctors Without Borders were pushed aside at that hospital?

gigamole said...

Yeah.... big money rules. Poor countries get manipulated. Are even big organizations such as the WHO immune to this manipulation? Or the FDA?