U.S. court revives lawsuit against pharma cos over terrorism funding

Jan. 5, 2022

A U.S. appeals court revived an old lawsuit against several pharma companies over allegations their contracts with Iraq's health ministry helped fund an Iraqi terrorist group that killed Americans during the war in Iraq.

The defendants — the parent companies and/or subsidiaries of AstraZeneca, GE Healthcare USA Holding, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Hoffmann-La Roche — will once again face an Anti-Terrorism Act suit. The plaintiffs — U.S. service members and the family members of victims of attacks in Iraq — contend that the militia group Jaysh al-Mahdi, sponsored by Hezbollah, controlled Iraq's health ministry and that the pharma companies assisted the group by selling their drugs to and bribing officials in the Iraqi Ministry of Health when the terrorist group controlled the ministry.

Plaintiffs allege that the pharma companies used local agents to deliver cash kickbacks to the terrorists who gave them  business. They also said defendants delivered extra, off-the-books batches of valuable medical goods that Jaysh al-Mahdi monetized on the black market to fund operations.

A federal trial judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2020, but now a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has overturned the verdict.

The pharma companies have collectively maintained their innocence and lawyers for the companies told the appeals court that they provided the Iraqi government "life-saving breast cancer treatments, hemophilia injections, ultrasounds, electrocardiogram machines, and other medical goods" after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.