[Ip-health] MSF calls on Pfizer to "set the record straight" after Wikileaks' saga

Judit Rius Sanjuan judit.rius at keionline.org
Thu Dec 16 14:16:04 PST 2010

I have been asked by MSF to share this article with ip-health readers.

MSF calls on Pfizer to "set the record straight" after Wikileaks' saga 
14 December 2010 
Elizabeth Sukkar

Médecins Sans Frontières is calling on Pfizer to "set the record straight" after the firm had given wrong information about the humanitarian body to the US embassy in Nigeria in the leaked Wikileaks' cable relating to the controversial antibiotic Trovan.
The cable, dated 20 April 2009 and which revealed the alleged "corruption links" tactics used by Pfizer to get the Trovan suit dropped, also claimed that MSF (known in English as Doctors Without Borders) had used the antibiotic in 1996 (scripintelligence.com, 10 December 2010). In May 2009, Pfizer and Nigeria reached a $75 million settlement over the now withdrawn drug.

According to the cable, Pfizer's Nigeria country manager Enrico Liggeri "commented that the lawsuits were wholly political in nature because the NGO Doctors Without Borders administered Trovan to other children during the 1996 meningitis epidemic and the Nigerian government has taken no action."

Daniel Berman, deputy director of MSF's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, told Scrip: "MSF is calling for Pfizer to set the record straight. We are concerned that Pfizer's lead in Nigeria [Enrico Leggeri] passed erroneous information to the US embassy. MSF has never used the drug Trovan anywhere in the world. This fact was clear to Pfizer and has never been in doubt."

MSF has also given a stark warning to the US government that it should not "take the word of drug companies at face value". Mr Berman says: "Information needs to be cross-checked and validated by others, as Pfizer in Nigeria had an overriding business interest as it was in an ongoing litigation case."

Pfizer has also been urged by MSF to abide by accepted standards when carrying out clinical trials in Africa, which includes gaining informed consent.

MSF is particularly concerned that sometimes governments support the interest of companies without considering health implications of commercial policies. This is especially the case in trade negotiations, where health implications are often discounted for example when governments offer unquestioned support for more stringent intellectual property rights for firms. Mr Berman says: "Governments need to put into perspective the objectives of companies versus public health objectives."

Scrip contacted Mr Liggieri to respond to MSF, but his offices in Nigeria said he was still unavailable. When the cable was first published, Pfizer HQ had said that although it has not seen any of the leaked Wikileaks' documents, "the statements purportedly contained in such documents are completely false".

Judit Rius Sanjuan
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
NYC Phone: 212 222 5180
Washington DC Phone: 202 332 2670

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