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Nigera, Pfizer settlement 'close'

3rd April 2009

The federal government of Nigeria is close to reaching a US$75 million settlement with the drug company Pfizer Inc.


Nigeria sued the pharmaceutical giant two years ago for a 1996 drug trial it says killed 11 children and disabled dozens.

The drug in question was the antibiotic trovafloxicin, marketed as Trovan.

It was tested on 100 children during the worst known meningitis outbreak in sub-Saharan Africa.

Though the drug was seriously restricted by the US Food and Drug Administration for its destructive side-effects, Pfizer says that Trovan did not kill Nigerian children, or damage their health.

Babatunde Irukera, the lawyer representing Nigeria, denied that progress toward a settlement had been made.

He said that newspapers which have announced settlements and reported specific amounts of money were in error, and that while there had been serious discussions, a resolution still had not been reached.

For more than a decade now, Pfizer has said that the then-untested Trovan saved lives in Nigeria and was more effective than the more conventional methods of treatment being used at the time.

The chairman of the victims' forum, Mustapha Maisikeli, said that Pfizer lawyers had agreed to the Nigerians' proposals that they pay US$10 million in legal fees to Nigerian lawyers, as well as money to the Nigerian government and to the state of Kano, where the company conducted trials of the drug on epidemic sufferers.

Pfizer said an agreement had not yet been reached, but that progress had been made.

Pfizer spokesman Christopher Loder said that several issues remained unresolved regarding measures to prevent any misappropriation of funds, because the company wanted to ensure that the money from the settlement would benefit people in Nigeria.

The Attorney General of Kano, Aliyu Umar, said one month ago that his negotiating team had arrived at its final position.

The drug company has said before that it wants to reach an out-of-court settlement.

When the survivors of the test originally attempted to bring legal action against Pfizer, they were confronted with conflicting juridical opinions.

Nigerian plaintiffs were eventually blocked from bringing the case into US courts.

However, in 2000 The Washington Post published an investigation into the matter, sparking a public outcry.

One year ago, Pfizer reportedly decided to pay US$10 million in compensation, as well as upgrading the state-subsidised drug manufacturing facility in Kano state, and the hospital where it conducted its study.

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