Pfizer has made the first compensation payments to families in Nigeria affected by its controversial clinical trial of the antibiotic Trovan carried out 15 years ago.

Authorities in the state of Kano, in the north of Nigeria, had alleged that treatment with Trovan (trovafloxacin) in a meningitis trial in 1996 resulted in the deaths of 11 and left dozens more disabled. The trial involved 200 children who were treated with either Trovan or Roche's Rocephin (ceftriaxone), a standard treatment for meningitis.

Legal proceedings against the drugmaker got underway in May 2007, initially demanding $2 billion in damages, but Pfizer settled the long-running dispute in July 2009 with a $75 million compensation package.

The company has always vehemently denied that Trovan caused the deaths and injury to children in Kano, claiming that they were due to "Nigeria's worst meningitis epidemic in history."

The epidemic claimed at least 12,000 lives over a six-month period, according to the company, and affected more than 100,000 people. It claims that Trovan helped save lives and was at least as effective as ceftriaxone in treating meningitis patients.

In the latest development, Pfizer has paid $175,000 each to four families of children who died or were disabled during the trial, according to a report in the Nigerian Bulletin, which notes that these are the first in a series of payments due in the coming months.

The bulk of Pfizer's settlement is the funding of a new medical facility in Kano and various other healthcare initiatives to the tune of $30 million. Construction of the facility started towards the end of last year. The company has also agreed to refund $10 million in legal costs incurred by the Kano government.