Pfizer 'probed Nigerian official'

Leaked cables say drugmaker investigated Nigerian attorney-general for corruption to persuade him to drop legal action.

    Pfizer told the Guardian that the statements purportedly contained in the leaked cables were false [GALLO/GETTY]

    US drugmaker Pfizer hired investigators to find evidence of corruption against the then Nigerian attorney-general to convince him to drop legal action against the company over a drug trial, the UK's Guardian newspaper has reported, citing leaked US diplomatic cables.

    Nigeria's Kano state sued the world's largest drugmaker in May 2007 for $2bn in damages over testing of the meningitis drug, Trovan, which state authorities said killed 11 children and left dozens disabled.

    The Guardian reported on Thursday that a memo published by the WikiLeaks whistleblowing website referenced a meeting between Enrico Liggeri, Pfizer's country manager at the time, and US officials suggesting that the company did not want to pay to settle two cases brought by Nigeria's federal government.

    "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," an April 2009 cable from Robert Tansey, of the US embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, said.

    "He said Pfizer's investigators were passing this information to local media," the cable read.

    "A series of damaging articles detailing Aondoakaa's 'alleged' corruption ties were published in February and March," the cable said.

    "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," it said.

    Legal settlement

    Pfizer and Kano's state government signed a $75m settlement on July 30, 2009.

    Aondoakaa was removed from the position of justice minister in February this year by Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria's president.

    In a statement to the Guardian, Pfizer said: "The Trovan cases brought by both the federal government of Nigeria and Kano state were resolved in 2009 by mutual agreement. Pfizer negotiated the settlement with the federal government of Nigeria in good faith and its conduct in reaching that agreement was proper.

    "Although Pfizer has not seen any documents from the US embassy in Nigeria regarding the federal government cases, the statements purportedly contained in such documents are completely false."

    In 1998, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Trovan for use by adults only. After reports of liver failure, its use in the United States was restricted to adult emergency care.

    The European Union banned its use in 1999.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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