Pfizer was sued after a 1996 Nigerian meningitis trial in which 11 children died during the testing of its new antibiotic Trovan against the standard treatment ceftriaxone. Read the litigation details on Wikipedia.
An InPharm article reveals that “US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks purport to show Pfizer’s country manager Enrico Liggeri was aware of a smear campaign against Nigeria’s attorney general, Micheal Aondoakaa to ‘expose him and put pressure on him to drop the federal cases’.” Pfizer denies this (read the InPharm article).
Here’s the relevant sections of the cables released by WikiLeaks and published in the Guardian here:
Pfizer Exposes Attorney General
5. (C) In follow up to the April 2 meeting, EconDep met with Pfizer Country Manager Enrico Liggeri in Lagos on April 9. (Note: Liggeri has years of experience in Nigeria because his family operated a business in Lagos from the early 1960s to the late 1980s. He spent most of his childhood in Lagos. End Note.) Liggeri said Pfizer was not happy settling the case, but had come to the conclusion that the $75 million figure was reasonable because the suits had been ongoing for many years costing Pfizer more than $15 million a year in legal and investigative fees. According to Liggeri, Pfizer had hired investigators to uncover corruption links to Federal Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa to expose him and put pressure on him to drop the federal cases. He said Pfizer’s investigators were passing this information to local media, XXXXXXXXXXXX. A series of damaging articles detailing Aondoakaa’s “alleged” corruption ties were published in February and March. Liggeri contended that Pfizer had much more damaging information on Aondoakaa and that Aondoakaa’s cronies were pressuring him to drop the suit for fear of further negative articles.
6. (C) 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. He underscored that the suit has had a “chilling effect” on international pharmaceutical companies because companies are no longer willing to conduct clinical testing in Nigeria. Liggeri opined that when another outbreak occurs no company will come to Nigeria’s aid.
7. (C) Comment: Pfizer’s image in Nigeria has been damaged due to this ongoing case. Pfizer’s management considers Nigeria a major growth market for its products and having this case behind it will help in efforts to rebuild its image here. Final discussions on the $30 million and $35 million are likely to be tricky because the Nigerian side wants to control who gets the money, not Pfizer. The U.S. Mission will continue to advocate for transparency in settling the case and also note to GON authorities that Pfizer must abide by the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and cannot simple hand over large sums of money to state and local officials. Petrosinelli and Adams will get back to the Mission on what further assistance may be needed. End Comment.