Pfizer has entered into a settlement which has been estimated to be worth up to $75 million with Nigeria’s Kano state arising out of a 1996 meningitis drug trial. In May 2007 the northern state of Kano sued Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, for $2 billion in damages over the testing of the meningitis drug Trovan. It was contended in the lawsuit that the drug killed 11 children and left dozens disabled. Apparently, the settlement over the Trovan litigation by Pfizer and the Kano state government ends this matter.
Details of the drug trial were first made public in December 2000 in a Washington Post investigative series. The articles reported that the trial failed to conform to U.S. patient-protection standards and that the oral form of the drug used in the trial had not been previously tested in children. Apparently, Pfizer had no signed consent forms for the children and the company was said to have relied on a falsified ethics approval letter.
Five years later, in May 2006, the Post obtained and published a confidential report that concluded that Pfizer violated Nigerian and international law in the experiment. That set in motion the criminal charges. It should be noted that Trovan was never approved for use by children in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration approved it for adults in 1998, but later severely restricted its use after reports of liver failure. The European Union banned it in 1999.
Under the agreement, the world’s largest drug company agreed to pay $30 million over two years toward health-care initiatives chosen by the Kano state government. It will reimburse the state for $10 million in legal costs. And Pfizer agreed to create a fund that will pay up to $35 million toward “valid claims” for financial support submitted by patients who took part in the clinical trial. A panel appointed by Pfizer and Kano state will determine eligibility and levels of support.
A lawyer for the state of Kano, where the charges were lodged, said the settlement was a long time coming but still welcome because it set the record straight about Pfizer’s culpability. The lawyer, Babatunde Irukera, said:
People and entities can and must be held accountable for the consequences of their conduct. People around the world are no different and must be accorded the same levels of protections, always.
Charges filed against Pfizer by Nigeria’s federal government, which is seeking about $6 billion in damages, are unaffected by the settlement. Two lawsuits related to the Trovan experiment also remain pending in New York.
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