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Monday 24th October 2016

Nigeria sues Pfizer over Trovan

11th June 2007

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer faces a potential compensation claim of US$7 billion from the Nigerian government after 196 children died following a trial of one of its drugs.


Officials say Pfizer gave an antibiotic called Trovan to 233 children in Kano state in April 1996 "illegally and pretentiously".

But Pfizer says the Nigerian government knew all about the trials of Trovan, which has since been approved in the United States for adults, but not children. The company said the government's accusations were not based on all the facts.

Nigeria says 196 children died, and the 37 survivors suffered problems ranging from deafness and blindness to paralysis and slurred speech.

The government accused Pfizer of "fraudulent representation, illegal/unethical conduct and practice, negligence and contravention of customary international law'', in documents filed at the federal high court in Abuja.

Officials want US$5 billion for general damages, approximately US$500 million to cover the cost of treatment, compensation and support provided to children who took part in the test, and US$450 million for funds allegedly spent on public awareness campaigns related to the test.

They are also claiming US$1 billion compensation for government health programmes which they say were spoiled by Pfizer's trial.

Pfizer's lawyer, senior advocate Chief Afe Babalola, denied all allegations against his client, saying that Trovan had been used in America and Europe on more than 50,000 people and that none had suffered the same problems as the children in the study.

A Nigerian health ministry official said the long gap between the trial and lawsuit was because the government had waited to gather sufficient evidence before filing the claim.

A spokesperson from Pfizer, Bryant Haskins, said that the Nigerian government "was fully informed in advance of the clinical trials" and that the allegations against Pfizer were "not based on all the facts".

The company is pushing for a speedy resolution of the case, which will continue on June 26, so as to minimise the damage to its reputation.

In 2005, a US court dismissed a case brought by several Nigerian families who said they were not warned that their children could be affected by Trovan. And the Kano state government has begun a separate suit, also lodged in 2005, for US$2.7 billion in compensation.



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