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. [...]
[...] In reaction, Pfizer denied all accusations and insisted on several points: Trovan enabled to save a lot of lives, there was a four-week observation after the tests and no special consequence occurred during these four weeks. But in April 2009, Pfizer came to an out-of-court agreement with the plaintiffs: the company would have to pay a total of $75 million for the families million), the Kano state million) and the legal fees million). Pfizer's strategy: silence, elusion and out-of-court agreement To sum up, Pfizer's strategy was to avoid any kind of attention and media coverage. [...]
[...] but which took time to amplify Although the crisis was triggered immediately after Pfizer made the decision to test Trovan in Kano, it took some time to amplify. Indeed, as we can notice in the scheme below, the reprehensible testing conditions of the experiment didn't prevent the American Food and Drug Administration to authorize the Trovan medicine only a year later. Trovan was launched in the early 1998, as if nothing had happened, and at the beginning, it was a real success: by the first year, as many as almost 3 million adults had taken it. [...]
[...] Thanks to this decision, the crisis remained limited, and Pfizer was able to launch its medicine which became a real success. Nevertheless, it is the same FDA which disclosed in 1999 the reports of 140 patients suffering from liver problems because of Trovan. Contrary to the first one, this decision hastened the spreading out of the crisis, especially because 6 persons were died after being treated with Trovan. The European health authorities contributed even more to fuel the crisis, as they immediately suspended Trovan sales, which obviously created a feeling of panic and suspicion towards Pfizer and its drugs. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee