BY Tukur Mamu
Pharmaceutical giant and arguably the world’s number one drug manufacturer, Pfizer, is at it again. Even though there are documented cases of Pfizer’s involvement in serious health fraud across the globe particularly in Africa where standard and procedure of clinical trials for new drugs, marketing procedures etc are being grossly abused and manipulated while existing laws are being flagrantly violated due to corruption and connivance with influential health professionals and others in position of executive authority, and in many cases recruiting and involving high profile proxies to perpetuate such fraud that mostly end up killing and incapacitating many, the company, due to the vast and intimidating network of connections it has established in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, has over the years continued with impunity to use the country – precisely the northern part – as a testing ground of mainly drugs that were banned in the western countries, including the United States where the headquarters of Pfizer is situated. Why Pfizer always prefers to use northern Nigeria in preference to the more enlighten Southern part of the country as a testing ground of its illegal drugs is the nagging question many stakeholders have answers to.
The infamous Kano Trovan saga of 1996 which captured the attention of local and international media, its associated politics and how Pfizer injured and manipulated the victims of its Trovan test has brought to limelight the extent these capitalist company can go to achieve what it wants at the expense of poor African lives and to use its vast and intimidating connections with government and powerful traditional institutions to deny its victims even the right to a meager compensation. While such compensations – whenever their victims are lucky to have it – are being manipulated in such a way the number of victims are being reduced through fraudulent technicalities, the amount due for each victim too is being grossly underpaid while Pfizer’s official and unofficial partners within government, the traditional institution, etc, take the lion shares as gratification for easing and frustrating the process in their favour. That is why the 1996 Kano Trovan saga ended after almost 15 years (in 2016) due to deliberate delay, scheming and all manner of fraud and technicalities to defraud the victims and if possible to completely deny them the right to compensation.
DESERT HERALD can reveal that due to the same reason out of over 530 victims that are seeking compensation only 192 of the victims were eventually paid by Pfizer after consistent follow ups, intense pressure and litigation. In reviewing Pfizer’s 1996 Trovan illegal clinical studies and to justify several attempts by the company to deny and defraud the 192 ‘approved’ victims, Pfizer made a lot of contradictions that exposed not only it’s insincerity with their victims but their several attempts to unnecessarily punish the victims and to frustrate them to abandon their struggle for compensation. DESERT HERALD investigations reveal that one of the many contradictions and fraud the company employed during the negotiation process with the leadership of the victims is the demand for the collation of DNA samples of the 192 victims by Pfizer which according to the company will be used by them to compare with its own DNA records of the victims which Pfizer claimed it kept since the Trovan drug test it conducted in 1996. DNA samples of each of the victims was there and then collected by New York based BODE laboratories on behalf of Pfizer.
DESERT HERALD leant that it was mutually agreed with the victims that Pfizer would release the DNA result to the Pfizer Meningitis Trust between five to six weeks but Pfizer deliberately and without any further correspondence with the victims refused to release the DNA results nearly 30 weeks after it was collated. While it was Pfizer that initiated the DNA sampling of the victims as a deliberate delay tactics strategy even though they know the process doesn’t require that, it contradicted itself in a response to a request sent to it by the federal government investigative committee. In their reply (which DESERT HERALD has obtained a copy), Pfizer told the committee that “No such record (about the DNA) exist or have ever existed. Pfizer does not collect this information (DNA) or keep such records in connection with its clinical studies. To do so would be contrary to patients’ confidentiality laws and regulations in many countries”. Pfizer in the same letter went further to justify their acts of deception on their victims by stating emphatically, “The only patient information of this study was date of birth, sex and patient initials. These patients were treated as hospital patients. As such, their hospital records were regarded as Kano IDH property and remained in the custody of the hospital administration. Pfizer does NOT have copies of these records (DNA)”.
Going by their response to the federal government committee and in view of the fact that the company was the one that initiated the collation of the DNA samples of the victims, it shows clearly that Pfizer’s actual motive is to delay and frustrate their victims into perpetual submission. It was a criminal act of pure deception to avoid compensating the poor victims. Such similar instances and acts of bad faith by Pfizer with the support of their Nigerian collaborators during the 1996 Trovan saga and in some of their cases across the world which were carefully reviewed by this paper are many.
Barely one year after the Kano Trovan scandal was settled amidst scandals, controversies and alleged gratification to key stakeholders, politician(s) and the traditional institution to ensure a soft landing which the company eventually got despite all odds and in view of the fact that authorities in Nigeria and precisely the Kano State Government had failed to sanction the company for gross professional misconduct and violation of international best practice, DESERT HERALD can authoritatively reveal that Pfizer is back on Kano soil even before official deal for payment of compensation was reached by the 1996 Trovan victims. The company is back conducting the test of more illegal and banned drugs on innocent and ignorant patients with the active connivance of health management officers and other recruited agents. In a two – month investigation, this paper has succeeded in documenting particulars of some of the new victims of Pfizer that were administered with the banned drugs as part of their clinical studies in Kano. Credible sources that pleaded not to be mentioned in the course of filling this report told DESERT HERALD that Pfizer’s principal anchor man in the current scandal is the same medical doctor that featured prominently during the 1996 Trovan scandal. He is Dr. Isa Gambo Dutse. The sources disclosed that Dr. Dutse has been a close ally of Pfizer for nearly two decades and that he is allegedly one of those coordinating Pfizer’s illegal clinical studies of late. Dr. Dutse and two others, Dr. Sanda Mohammed and Dr. Barodo are reportedly the owners of Premier Hospital in Gyadi-Gyadi area of Kano city. DESERT HERALD findings reveal that Premier Hospital is among the three hospitals in Kano and the only private hospital where the recent clinical trial was ‘secretly’ conducted by Pfizer.
The latest clinical trial, this paper can confirm, was done in 2015 while negotiations are still ongoing with the 1996 Trovan drugs victims. The three hospitals that were reportedly used by Pfizer are Mallam Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), National Orthopaedic Hospital, Dala and Premier Hospital, all in Kano city. This paper has also confirmed from some of the victims of the latest tragedy we documented that banned and killer drugs were used on patients by Pfizer as part of their clinical studies.
DESERT HERALD can exclusively report that the dangerous drugs that were used by Pfizer during the 2015 clinical trials are VIAGRA, CELEBREX, BEXTRA and NORVATIS. Virtually all the drugs, this paper can reveal, are currently banned by law in Europe and America but Pfizer diverted the said drugs to Nigeria where it found a perfect corruption ground. The National Orthopaedic Hospital, Dala, where most of the clinical trials took place was done between March and April 2015. Our findings from some parents of the latest victims, which have also been documented by us, revealed that some of the patients have lost their lives during the drug testing while many others were affected by the side effects of the banned drugs. As part of Pfizer’s ‘strategy’ to conceal the clinical trials from the public and the media, Pfizer this reporter learnt, usually administers the deadly drugs through the three hospitals directly to patients without allowing them to take it on their own or at their convenience or to carry it home, or to keep it during admission.
In an interview, one of the victims told this reporter that, “Pfizer treated most of us instantly by instructing and encouraging us to swallow some of the tabs without telling us any information or the motive behind administering the drugs on us”. For the same reason, no patient is allowed to go with even the packs of the drug or to even see the name of the drugs. During the cause of investigating this report, this paper has also uncovered some evidences that confirm that the trial has indeed taken place. Some of the evidences this paper got from one of the three hospitals and from a participant in that hospital who claimed to be shortchanged by officials of the said hospital and pleaded anonymity includes Viagra (Hand Band), part of Norvatis pack of tablets used for an innocent patient during the trial, LIPTOR key Holder presented to the ignorant patients as ‘gift’ from Pfizer during the trial, pictures of some doctors wearing Pfizer overall uniform with a conspicuous Pfizer barge, pictures of some of the pharmacists that participated during the trial. A particular pharmacist at National Orthopaedic Hospital is still proudly wearing the Pfizer overall as at the time of writing this report.
Further investigation by DESERT HERALD at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Dala, has corroborated a revelation of an insider in the hospital that doesn’t want to be mentioned because of the fear of losing his job, that the Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Mohammed Nuhu Salihu, is the principal suspect of the 2015 trial at the hospital.
This paper was also reliably informed by the said staff of the hospital that the leader of the Dala Orthopaedic Hospital that participated fully during the 2015 Pfizer’s illegal clinical trial is the hospital’s Head of Clinical Services and Training, Dr. Donwa Jeremiah Ogheneruo. Dr. Ogheneruo was said to have been assisted by three other doctors from the hospital in conducting the Pfizer sponsored trial. They are Dr. Yakubu Surajuddeen, Dr. Sule Omeiza Yakubu and Dr. Awe Abiodun. The hospital insider further disclosed to this reporter that two pharmacists, Sani Mustapha and Ja’afaru Mohammed are the ones that participated in the trial from the Pharmacy Department while one Tukur Dattijo who is the Chief Nursing Officer is the nurse that was allegedly used by the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer. DESERT HERALD can also reveal that some of the Wards at Dala Orthopaedic Hospital where most of the illegal trials took place include East Ward, West Ward, Dantata Amenity and Children Ward/ NHIS.
DESERT HERALD also authoritatively gathered from ministry officials that state and federal authorities were not consulted by Pfizer or by any of the three hospitals before the latest trial and that no permission was given by either the Federal Government or the Kano State Government. Findings in both the Federal Ministry of Health and the Kano State Ministry of Health reveals same. Also, there was no mention of the 2015 clinical trials in the usual weekly presentation of NOHD and there was no website on the trial that was conducted in any of the three hospitals.
Also in an effort to verify whether Pfizer has actually got the permission of Nigerian authorities before embarking on their 2015 clinical studies in Kano, DESERT HERALD contacted an influential stakeholder in the Pfizer imbroglio and Chairman of Kano Trovan Victims Association (KTVA), Alhaji Mustapha Garba Maisikeli, to comment on the findings of this paper and to answer other relevant questions. But as soon as this reporter introduced himself to him on phone and the information he is required to comment on, Alhaji Maisikeli angrily told this reporter not to call him again on any issue concerning Pfizer. He said he has no comment and that his Association is for the 1996 victims and therefore has nothing to do with our report.
In his response when our reporter visited the hospital, the Chief Medical Director of the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Dala, Dr. Muhammad Nuhu Salihu has expectedly denied the reported clinical trials by Pfizer but told this reporter that Pfizer sometimes donate drugs mostly antibiotics that are about to expire to the hospital indicating that there is indeed a relationship between the hospital and Pfizer. Considering its antecedents even in America will Pfizer donate the so called about to be expired drugs to the management of the hospital and expect no returns at the end? Are such donations being documented?
Litigations against Pfizer across the world are many. The company is not new to controversies associated with illegal drug tests, unauthorised marketing of such drugs and deliberate concealing of safety risks associated with some of its banned drugs. One of such cases which was reviewed by DESERT HERALD in the cause of filling this report and on the same drugs they used at the three Nigerian hospitals in Kano in this latest scandal is the out of court settlement involving $486 million Pfizer reached with its shareholders for concealing the safety risks of the same Celebrex and Bextra which according to the shareholders has caused big loses to them. The Celebrex and Bextra its shareholders sued them for are among the top drugs Pfizer experiment on innocent patients in Kano in 2015. Also due to illegal marketing fraud, Pfizer had agreed in September 2009 to pay a whopping sum of $2.3 billion to settle a United States government probe into the illegal marketing of Bextra and many other drugs. The United States government said Bextra which is a painkiller drug was illegally marketed in the US hence the civil and criminal allegation against the pharmaceutical giant. The criminal fine according to reports was the single largest health care fraud settlement of any kind ever. Pfizer had also illegally marketed Neurontin, an epilepsy drug for which the company in 2004 paid a fine of $430 million while it was also made to sign a corporate integrity agreement because of its constant violation of local and international laws.
While it was widely reported particularly in the US that the world’s largest drug company, Pfizer, has been mis-promoting medicines and paying heavy kickbacks to compliant doctors like the case we have in Kano, the company has received several blows to its reputation when it pleaded guilty of misbranding it’s painkiller Bextra and withdrawn same drug from the market in 2004 and only to bring same to Nigeria for illegal clinical studies after eleven years of withdrawing it (2015). The drug was not approved by medical regulators. Under another out of court settlement with the US Department of Justice, a Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn, has paid a criminal fine of $1.3 billion, a record in America’s judicial history. Pfizer has also paid $1 billion in civil settlement to Medicare, Medicaid and other government health insurance schemes to reimburse improper prescriptions.
During an interaction by some of the 2015 Pfizer victims with DESERT HERALD publisher, Mallam Tukur Mamu in Kano last week, they revealed that several of their colleagues died during and after the drugs trial. Mamu has advised them to contact more victims and organise themselves to update ongoing documentation. He assured them that with the overwhelming evidences the paper got coupled with the ones at their disposal, DESERT HERALD will follow and pursue their matter to logical conclusion and that more follow up report by the paper will be provided to ensure justice. He told them that going by the history of Pfizer and the experiences of the 1996 Trovan victims they should expect a difficult battle ahead if need be.
As victims of Pfizer 2015 clinical trials in Kano regroup to demand for justice, it remains to be seen the action the federal government will take to further investigate the veracity of this report and subsequent reports to come to ensure application of necessary sanctions on the drug manufacturing giant, Pfizer. Most importantly, the people of Kano and the victims in particular will be anxious to see the action Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje will take on this alleged scandal of international magnitude and what others simply refer to a classical case of a crime against humanity. Will Mr. Ganduje compromise to Pfizer like former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau reportedly did in the case of the 1996 Trovan saga? Will the governor allow the influence of Pfizer’s Nigeria’s powerful agents to also prevail against the interest and rights of the victims, the people that overwhelmingly voted him into office? DESERT HERALD will continue to keep you updated and will provide these answers and many more as the situation unfolds.