The Nigerian Government withdrew a $6.5 million civil lawsuit that

accused Pfizer of improperly conducting a clinical trial of its

antibiotic Trovan (trovafloxacin) on children more than a decade ago

only to file an updated suit hours later adding a new charge of fraud.

The authorities have accused Pfizer of taking advantage of an

outbreak of meningitis in 1996 in the Northern Nigerian state of Kano

to test the antibiotic Trovan and another drug called ceftriaxone on

200 children without the authorisation or full understanding of the

families involved in the trials. The tests resulted in the deaths of

11 children and varying degrees of injuries and other disorders

including deafness, muteness, paralysis, brain damage, loss of sight

and slurred speech.

Pfizer denies any wrongdoing, insisting it obtained authorisation for

the drug trials and that the drugs saved lives. The company’s lead

counsel, Afe Babalola says the government has not put forward a

convincing case. “As it is now, the case is out of court. My client

will be happy that every step taken so far has been successful for

them,” he argued.

However, government lawyer Babatunde Irukera says the evidence

against Pfizer is overwhelming. “We believe that the case the federal

government has against Pfizer is good. There is overwhelming evidence

that Pfizer perpetrated all kinds of fraudulent activities and also

engaged in these trials illegally,” said Irukera. “There are victims

who are living today, there are some families of the victims who have

died, what they understood at the time Pfizer came to Nigeria was

that Pfizer was volunteering treatment. They did not think they were

volunteering their children as guinea pigs for clinical examination,”

he added.

The case has been bogged down by legal technicalities. Last month the

court rejected a request by Pfizer to dismiss the lawsuit on the

grounds that it should have been filed within six years of the incident.