Friday, 10 April 2009

Pfizer - supremely evil

Drugs company Pfizer has just reached an out-of-court settlement, rumoured to be worth US$75 million, following the deaths of several Nigerian children used as human guineau pigs in an illegal drugs trial. Pfizer took advantage of people's fear and ignorance, during a meningitis epidemic, to persuade them to take part in their evil scheme.

From The Independent:
A team of Pfizer doctors reached the Nigerian camp just as the outbreak, which killed at least 11,000 people, was peaking. They set themselves up within metres of a medical station run by the aid group Médecins Sans Frontières, which was dispensing proven treatments to ease the epidemic.

From the crowd that had gathered at the Kano Infectious Diseases Hospital, 200 sick children were picked. Half were given doses of the experimental Pfizer drug called Trovan and the others were treated with a proven antibiotic from a rival company.

Eleven of the children died and many more, it is alleged, later suffered serious side-effects ranging from organ failure to brain damage. But with meningitis, cholera and measles still raging and crowds still queueing at the fence of the camp, the Pfizer team packed up after two weeks and left.

That would probably have been an end to the story if it weren't for Pfizer employee, Juan Walterspiel. About 18 months after the medical trial he wrote a letter to the then chief executive of the company, William Steere, saying that the trial had "violated ethical rules". Mr Walterspiel was fired a day later for reasons "unrelated" to the letter, insists Pfizer.

The company claims only five children died after taking Trovan and six died after receiving injections of the certified drug Rocephin. The pharmaceutical giant says it was the meningitis that harmed the children and not their drug trial. But did the parents know that they were offering their children up for an experimental medical trial?

"No," Nigerian parent Malam Musa Zango said. He claims his son Sumaila, who was then 12 years old, was left deaf and mute after taking part in the trial. But Pfizer has denied this and says consent had been given by the Nigerian state and the families of those treated. It produced a letter of permission from a Kano ethics committee. The letter turned out to have been backdated and the committee set up a year after the original medical trial. (1)
What utter scum, using Nigerian children to test their poson on. While it is good that they were sued, US$75 million is nothing to a company the size of Pfizer and hardly likely to deter them from similarly vicious 'testing.'

The Nazis did the same sort of thing on Jews. I don't think the comparison is hysterical or inappropriate. Pfizer treated African children in a way they would never, ever have dared to treat American children - they decided that the Africans weren't as human or as important. Which is how the Nazis viewed Jews.

The usual justification for this sort of racist exploitation is that it is 'for their own good.' It benefits the people of Nigeria to have dubious pharmaceuticals offerred to them, just as it benefits the people of China to be inveigled into making footballs and DVD players for western consumers.

Of course, the real beneficiaries are, in all cases, us lucky bastards in the west, who get danger free drugs (who cares about a few dead Nigerian brats?) and cheap commodities (who cares about the rampant abuse of the workers who made them?), but the appearance of decency has been maintained and we get to feel benevolent, or - even better - don't have to think about it at all.

This logic has a fine pedigree. It was deployed in the 1800s to justify the slave trade. Robert E. Lee - often identified as an opponent of slavery (for all that he lead the Confederate armies) claimed that while it was "a moral and political evil," he went on to proclaim that "it is a greater evil to the white than to the colored race ... The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, physically, and socially. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their further instruction as a race, and will prepare them, I hope, for better things" (2).

Now, as then. Don't you understand we're doing all this for their own good? We plunder their country and poison their children for their own good? Really, we do. We're the victims here.
1 - ' Pfizer to pay £50m after deaths of Nigerian children in drug trial experiment,' by Daniel Howden, published in The Independent, 6th of April 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/pfizer-to-pay-16350m-after-deaths-of-nigerian-children-in-drug-trial-experiment-1663402.html)
2 - From a letter written by Robert E. Lee, dated December 27, 1856 (http://www.civilwarhome.com/leepierce.htm)

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