During an epidemic in Nigeria in 1996, Pfizer illegally tested an unapproved drug on children with brain infections, says a panel of Nigerian medical experts. According to the report, published in the Sunday (today) edition of the Washington Post, this violated international law. The report was completed five years ago, but never came out in the open.

According to the report, the Nigerian government had not authorised Pfizer to administer Trovan, the unauthorized drug, on 100 children. Trovan was administered to children and babies in Kano, Nigeria. Trovan was an experimental antibiotic drug.

According to the report, three laws were violated:

1. Nigerian Law
2. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
3. The International Declaration of Helsinki related to medical research

The ?illegal’ drug trial resulted in the death of five children. Many children also went on to develop arthritis. Approved drugs were available and being administered at the field hospital were the Trovan trial was taking place. The Washington post states that the international medical charity organisation, Doctors Without Borders, were using approved drugs at the same place during that time.

According to Pfizer, parents of the children agreed verbally with nurses that the experimental drug could be used on their children. The company also claims that the Nigerian government knew about the trial. (Source: Washington Post). The company denies behaving unethically. Pfizer also states that the experimental drug saved lives.

According to the report by Nigerian medical experts, there is no written evidence that the children and/or their parents knew an unapproved, experimental drug was being used. The written proof showing that Nigerian authorities knew about this experimental trial and approved of it turned out to be a fake.

The panel of Nigerian medical experts say Pfizer should apologize to the families and their children and pay them compensation.

In the USA, Trovan was eventually approved for use with adults. The approval came one year after this ?illegal trial’ on children in Nigeria. However, the FDA never went on to approve the use of Trovan for children. Two years after the FDA approved Trovan for adults, its use was severely restricted as the drug is linked to reports of serious liver damage and deaths.

It it turns out to be true that a giant multinational company took advantage of, and deceived poor children and their families to do something they would never have been allowed to do in their home country, this was an appaling tragedy.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today