P

fizer has finally reached agreement to settle a lawsuit brought by the Nigerian state of Kano which had accused the firm of improperly conducting a clinical trial of its antibiotic Trovan.

The state of Kano, in the north of the country, had alleged that the clinical trial carried out on Trovan (trovafloxacin) in 1996 resulted in the death of 11 children and started legal proceedings against the drugmaker in May 2007, demanding $2 billion in damages. However, Pfizer has repeatedly and vehemently denied that Trovan caused the deaths and extensive damage to children in Kano, claiming that they were due to “Nigeria’s worst meningitis epidemic in history”.

The cerebrospinal meningitis epidemic that struck Nigeria in 1996 took at least 12,000 lives over a six-month period, Pfizer noted, and affected more than 100,000 people. The results of the clinical study “showed that Trovan helped save lives and was at least as effective as the best treatment [the antibiotic ceftriaxone] available at Kano’s Infectious Disease Hospital”, it adds.

Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will underwrite “several healthcare initiatives chosen by the Kano state government” totalling $30 million over a two- year period and reimburse the latter for $10 million in legal costs. The New York-based drugs giant is also setting up a fund for people who participated in the 1996 Trovan study.

The fund will be administered by a six-member board of trustees (three each chosen by Pfizer and Kano) which will decide on eligibility and levels of financial support. The maximum amount to be given out will be $35 million and Pfizer associate general counsel Brad Lerman said “the people of Nigeria will have confidence that the parties have taken strong steps to ensure that the funds reach only those for whom they are intended”.

Mr Lerman added that Pfizer has been active in Nigeria for more than 50 years and the company believes that “a mutually agreeable resolution to the Trovan cases is the best way to continue that relationship”.