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In 1996, 11 children died as human guinea pigs in tests by Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, when 100 of them were given an experimental antibiotic. Many others suffered deafness, muteness, blindness, paralysis and brain damage.
After charges were brought by the Nigerian government—criminal and civil—a tentative settlement was reached in 2009 ordering Pfizer to pay $75 million in compensation.
But compensating devastated families or survivors would cut into Pfizer’s massive super-profits. The company wanted to do everything possible to avoid this, so it turned to illegal methods to beat the charges.
According to diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, Pfizer sought to do this by blackmailing Nigeria’s attorney general. Pfizer hoped they could force him to drop the charges through slander and intimidation. They hired private investigators to dig up things to be used against him, and also leaked information to the press to tarnish his reputation.
The conversations revealing Pfizer’s attempt to corruptly avoid legal responsibility for killing 11 children and disabling others took place between a Pfizer CEO and U.S. officials at the embassy at Abuja. The discussions further reveal the collusion between big business and its backers in the seats of imperialist power.