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WikiLeaks: Drug Company Hijinks

A U.S. diplomatic cable says Pfizer hired investigators to dig up damaging evidence against Nigeria’s former attorney general to pressure him into dropping a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company.

The document published by the Guardian today quotes a Pfizer official in 2009 as saying the company was seeking to uncover corruption links to Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa and was passing the information to local media.

Pfizer was facing a lawsuit over the company’s trial of the antibiotic Trovan during a meningitic epidemic in the Nigerian state of Kano in 1996. Nigerian officials said 11 children died during the trial while others were left with deformities. Pfizer reached a $75 million settlement with Kano last year.

Enrico Liggeri, Pfizer’s country manager in Nigeria, was named in the leaked cable. It said: “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.”

The Nigerian press published stories detailing the alleged corruption. The cable said 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.”

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.

“As previously disclosed in Pfizer’s 10-Q filing in November 2009, per the agreement with the federal government, Nigeria dismissed its civil and criminal actions against the company. Pfizer denied any wrongdoing or liability in connection with the 1996 study. The company agreed to pay the legal fees and expenses incurred by the federal government associated with the Trovan litigation. Pursuant to the settlement, payment was made to the federal government’s counsel of record in the case, and there was no payment made to the federal government of Nigeria itself. As is common practice, the agreement was covered by a standard confidentiality clause agreed to by both parties.”

— Compiled from reports from the Guardian, VOA, and others

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