Monday, July 23, 2007 at 10:24 AM
…it was brilliantly acted and dramatized the all-too-real exploits of corrupt governments and multi-national (pharmaceutical) corporations that routinely entail sacrificing human lives for profit – especially African lives that are regarded so cheaply, universally.
Therefore, I was truly heartened when the BBC reported last week that the Nigerian government has filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical hegemon Pfizer. In this landmark class-action case, Nigeria alleges that Pfizer scientists conducted illegal trials of an anti-meningitis drug (Trovan) that they knew or should have known would kill or deform hundreds of Nigerian children – as it surely did.
Even worse, however, the suit alleges that these scientists duped Nigerian parents into offering up their children as guinea pigs. And this horrific allegation stems from the fact that, after a severe outbreak of meningitis in 1996, radio broadcasts urged concerned parents to take their children “as quickly as possible”, to local clinics, where international aid workers from Medicins San Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) were administering free emergency treatment.
Critically, however, the parents were not told that agents from Pfizer had also set up shop at those clinics and were slipping their children an “unregistered and unapproved trial drug as part of this treatment”.
The American doctors took advantage of our illiteracy and cheated us and our children. We thought they were helping us.
We did not suspect that our children were being used for an experiment. They have cheated us and our children. All I can say is that God will judge them according to their evil deeds. [Hassan Sani - whose daughter Hajara (pictured here) was one of the lucky victims]
It is regrettable, however, that this is only a civil action to collect money for pain and suffering; especially since it would take only chump change for Viagra-producing Pfizer to pay-off the $7bn in damages being sought.
Because, if the Nigerian government really wanted to vindicate and honor the lives of these innocent victims, it would follow the lead of its Kano regional government by pursuing criminal prosecutions to imprison Pfizer’s Mengeles for serial manslaughter and murder….
Meanwhile, I appreciate that the film probably dramatizes this dark secret of American enterprise in too entertaining a fashion to incite the level of outrage that would compel a multi-national corporation like Pfizer to stop its exploitation of the poor Africans for profit. And I fear that even this court trial will do little more in this respect.
Therefore, I highly recommend you buy the book by John LeCarre on which the film is based. Because reading it is far more likely to evoke the kind of moral indignation against this constant gardening in Africa that is warranted….
Indeed, recall that back in 1972 the New York Times exposed the US government for conducting “the longest non-therapeutic experiment on human beings [i.e. poor black sharecroppers in Alabama] in medical history”. In fact, the experiment ran from 1932 until this exposé incited such universal condemnation that the government was compelled to end its “Tuskegee Syphilis Study” post haste and pay $10 million to compensate the victims and their heirs – to forestall a class action suit.
Yet many who condemned the government are acutely aware that since then US pharmaceutical corporations have been blithely experimenting with new drugs on Africans to ensure their safety for Americans. And the venality of this unconscionable practice is hardly redeemed by Pfizer’s self-righteous protestation that its experiments are for the good of all mankind, not merely for the benefit of its shareholders. Nor, moreover, by its specious claim that it secured consent decrees from all of these sacrificial lambs beforehand….
So, where’s the outrage!!!
NOTE: The next time you hear that primitive customs make Africans suspicious of lifesaving vaccinations that westerners take for granted (like those for polio), think of the barbaric practices of pharmaceutical companies that have given them just cause to be suspicious….