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,”
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.