Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On the Radar Screen: Obama Administration to Weigh in on Nigerian Drug Case

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court asked the Obama administration's Solicitor General's office to add its voice to the debate over Pfizer's alleged illegal testing of antibiotics on children in Nigeria. The plaintiffs in this case allege that Pfizer, who is also facing a $7 billion suit in Nigerian courts, violated international law by conducting a clinical trial without proper consent from the children's guardians and failing to inform them the study was experimental or that it involved serious risks to their childrens' health. The trial left 11 children dead and many others with debilitating conditions, such as paralysis.

In January of this year, the Second Circuit court of appeals decided the plaintiffs could proceed with their case, stating "The norm prohibiting nonconsensual medical experimentation on human subjects has become firmly embedded and has secured universal acceptance in the community of nations." In response, Pfizer petitioned the Supreme Court, arguing U.S. corporations doing business abroad should not be held liable in such cases. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (in the news lately for their opposition to climate change), supports Pfizer's position.

This case provides an opportunity for the Obama administration to explain how U.S. corporations - entities that exist courtesy of U.S. laws - should be held accountable for harms they cause in operating outside of U.S. borders. We will keep you informed as the Solicitor General responds in this important matter.

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