Pfizer has announced the funding of malaria support projects in Kenya, Ghana and Senegal. Pfizer is committing “$15 million over 5 years to support efforts that engage and educate treatment providers and patients to improve the utilization and effectiveness of malaria treatment and patient adherence.” The three-country initiative was awarded based on competitive bid in each location.
An ironic fact is that currently Pfizer does not have a specific malaria product on the market, and therefore its philanthropic work to promote adherence in ACT case management is likely to benefit the correct use of another company’s product, an arthemether-lumefantrine combination. Apparently Pfizer is in Phase III trials on a Zithromax/Chloroquine combination therapy for malaria, but it is not clear how this will be used in the context of widespread chloroquine resistance.
- In Kenya the project will promote symptom recognition and treatment-seeking behaviors at the household level, with an emphasis on pregnant women and children under five, using antenatal clinics in western and coastal provinces as an entry point to these target groups.
- In Senegal the project train community health workers and nurses serving in Tambacounda Region, document the benefits of malaria treatment messaging in the health system and include a complementary patient messaging program.
- The Ghanaian program will build capacity in the informal sector with Licensed Chemical Sellers (LCSs) who are found in over 7,000 retail outlets in almost every community throughout the country.
At the same time Pfizer’s philanthropy is being touted, its research practices in northern Nigeria have come beck to haunt it after over 10 years with suits by federal and state governments. According to the BBC, in Nigeria Pfizer “tested the experimental antibiotic Trovan in Kano during an outbreak of meningitis which had affected thousands in 1996. Some 200 children were tested. Pfizer say 11 of them died of meningitis, but Kano officials say about 50 died whilst others developed mental and physical deformities.” The cases are far from being decided, though.
A lesson here is that corporations are coming under more and more scrutiny in this globalized world. Philanthropy and corporate social responsibility need to be balanced equally with corporate scientific and technical responsibility. Both should result in the saving of lives and improving the quality of those lives saved.