Thirty people in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, lost sight in one or both eyes after being injected with a version of the drug Altuzan in a government hospital in March 2013. Nine had to have eyes removed as a result of the problems caused by the injections.
The case has caused much protest and controversy in Kurdistan, with many people already heavily critical of the two ruling parties – the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – for the lack of decent services provided. The director of the hospital concerned has since resigned.
The newly-formed Eye to Eye campaign has demanded the Ministry of Health disclose all relevant information about the case, including details of who supplied the Altuzan and whether it was a counterfeit version. Altuzan is the brand name that the Avastin drug is sold under in Turkey.
Questions have also been raised over the role of FDAS, a British company that, according to their website, signed an “agreement” with the Kurdistan Regional Government in September 2012 to provide “analytical testing services to the Kurdistan Medicines Control Agency (KMCA) to support actions to improve the quality of medicines in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq”. Their website contains two articles on the subject, and a video of their representatives signing the agreement.
The company has not responded to accusations made by the Eye to Eye campaign that it should have tested the drugs prior to the injections, and that it failed to properly do so.
Corporate Watch asked the Nottingham-based company for a response to this but the response we received was puzzling. The company said it did “not have and has never had a contract with the Kurdistan Regional Government to provide its services”, appearing to contradict its own website.
Their statement to us continued:
“Food & Drug Analytical Services does provide testing services indirectly and on an as requested basis to the Kurdistan Medicines Control Agency (KMCA). This is in our capacity as a service provider for one of our clients Britt Pharm Ltd, Company Number 07325977 located in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.”
Search for Britt Pharm in Companies House and you’ll find a tiny company, the last annual accounts of which showed assets of just £3 and declared the company to be dormant. You’ll also find that until April 2012 it was called FDAS Britt Ltd.
The most recent annual return registered for Britt Pharm/FDAS Britt says its owners are Hussein Al-Bayat, Khalaf Merza and Mahdi Ismail, who is also the sole director. It is unclear how they are connected to the Nottingham-based FDAS, which is owned by current and former directors Stephen Jones, Larissa Taylor, Trevor Ray and Eric Hilton plus the venture capital investors East Midlands Regional Venture Capital Fund No 1 and the publicly-funded East Midlands Early Growth Fund.
Corporate Watch has so far been unable to get in contact with Grimsby-based Britt Pharm/FDAS Britt, and the Nottingham-based FDAS would not say what the link was between the two companies, or give us contact details.
The Ministry of Health of Kurdistan has since published details of the contract and, sure enough, FDAS Britt is named. Intriguingly though, the individual named with the company is Eric Hilton, Sales Directors and shareholder of the Nottingham-based FDAS.
The contract says FDAS Britt has had to put a security deposit of $1.5m in the Kurdistan Governmental Bank, and that the KMCA can deduct fines from that sum if things go wrong. But if Britt Pharm/FDAS Britt still only has assets of £3, where has that money come from?
The Nottingham-based FDAS also chose not to respond to the most important accusation of the lot: that they failed to adequately monitor and inspect the medicines that caused the problems.
FDAS did tell us that they had carried out a test on a sample of Altuzan in April 2013, the month after the injections were made. According to their statement, they were not “party to the details or the outcome of this investigation” and instructed us to contact Britt Pharm to find out more.
Corporate Watch asked the Kurdistan Regional Government’s London representation for clarification but, after initially being promised a response, nothing has come.
The most recent accounts for the Nottingham-based FDAS (under its full name of Food & Drug Analytical Services Ltd) show the company is in a troubled financial situation, with negative equity of £546,000. The auditors also express a “fundamental uncertainty” over the company’s “ability to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future”.
It is understandable therefore that FDAS is keen for the current controversy to blow over, especially as they say they are “looking forward to strengthening our relationships with our Erbil and MENA [Middle East and North Africa] countries clients.”
But if they continue to avoid questions about their role in the KRG, people in Kurdistan will continue to demand answers.
If you have any additional information about the role of FDAS in the KRG, please get in touch on 00442074260005 or contact[at]corporatewatch.org.