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Crisis Management: a Report on Pfizer and the Trovan Crisis

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case study
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  1. A crisis resulting from rushed decisions but which took time to expand
    1. A crisis triggered immediately
    2. But which took time to amplify
    3. A crisis which had severe consequences at various levels
  2. Various actors, multiple stakes
    1. The victims and their families
    2. The Nigerian government
    3. The health authorities in the US and across the world
    4. The media and the public opinion
  3. How did Pfizer deal with the Trovan scandal?
    1. Initial reaction after the consequences of the Trovan tests
    2. Back to the US: denial of Trovan by FDA
    3. Acceptance of the drug: from success to deaths
    4. Resurgence of the Nigerian scandal
    5. Massive attacks and unsuccessful lawsuits
    6. Pfizer's strategy: silence, elusion and out-of-court agreement
  4. Lessons drawn from the crisis and changes implemented
    1. More social responsibility in the Third World Countries
    2. Clinical trials improvements
    3. A better communication
    4. All means are good to maximize profits

We decided to study the Trovan crisis that affected Pfizer as we found it particularly interesting. If one delves into the circumstances which contributed to provoke the Trovan crisis, it is indeed an intriguing story. We also thought that it would be quite enriching to analyze how a pharmaceutical company which is supposed to act and be responsible for the improvement of human life, can handle this type of crisis and account for ethically reprehensible practices as well as be accountable for the loss of human lives. Such a crisis may be categorized as a transgression. Pfizer's executives were well aware of what they were realizing. They also knew about the risks involved. Yet, they decided to carry on with the operations. What was the company's reaction to the crisis? Further, was the company successful in regaining the world's trust? These are the main questions we will be answering after having analyzed the origin and the consequences of the crisis. We will also take into consideration the reactions of the different stakeholders. The roots of the Trovan scandal that hit Pfizer and finds its roots back into 1996. This was the time when the pharmaceutical company decided to carry out a test on Nigerian kids using its new medicine called Trovan. This venture wasn't approved nor authorized by the health authorities and the government body in the US. Further, the concept of using human beings as mere guinea pigs was even more an astonishing fact. Suddenly, a terrible meningitis epidemic attacked a small city in Nigeria and that city was Kano. Kano was a poor city and it had encountered a number of deaths as a result of this epidemic especially among children. Pfizer did not seem to waste any time and therefore took advantage of this grief stricken city to prove its analysis.

[...] Naturally, Pfizer tried to keep a low profile on the events. This silence was possible because of the shady part the Nigerian government played in the case. Actually, the Nigerian government was obviously aware of the situation but did not sue the company. Two main reasons can be considered for this behavior: firstly, many of Nigerian officers and bureaucrats were corrupted and it was suspected that they were the ones who delivered the authorization for Pfizer to test the drug on children without the approval (or at least the real understanding of the matter) by the parents and they had remained silence not to attract the attention towards them. [...]


[...] Lessons drawn from the crisis and changes implemented More social responsibility in the Third World Countries The Trovan scandal caused a huge public outcry. People began to distrust the practices some pharmaceutical industries had in developing countries, and this scandal strengthen the idea that Western huge-profits-making companies had some unethical behavior in poor countries, organizing unsafe clinical trials over there, under the pretext of helping and saving children in these unstable countries. In order to keep on doing trials in these countries, which is far less expensive than conducting them in Western countries, big pharmaceutical companies had to prove the world that they were not only conducting trials there to save money but went there in a real perspective of helping local people. [...]


[...] A crisis which had severe consequences at various levels The Trovan scandal had several consequences at different scales: On the company and on the pharmaceutical industry: the Trovan affair had deep consequences on Pfizer, as the brand equity of the company suffered a lot from the crisis. Indeed, the four elements which constitute the brand equity (brand loyalty, brand image, brand associations and perceived quality) lost strength and were affected by negative connotations. After the world learnt that Pfizer had considered Nigerian kids as guinea pigs to test an unapproved drug, Pfizer's brand image became massively associated with negative comments and representations. [...]

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