The Islamic Post Blog


Nigerian Lawsuit Against Pfizer Revived by ipinfo2
March 25, 2009, 6:00 am
Filed under: March Volume 2009, World | Tags:

By Maryam Yahya
Islamic Post Staff Writer

In a surprising turn of events in a saga that has lasted over a decade, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned a lower court ruling that alleges that Pfizer Pharmaceuticals administered an experimental drug, Trovan, to Nigerian children without prior authorization in 1996.  Previously, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed claims made by the Nigerian Government stating that there was not enough basis for the suit.
The Nigerian Government contends that in 1996, during an outbreak of meningitis when thousands of people were either being paralyzed or mortally succumbing to the disease, Pfizer administered an experimental antibiotic called Trovan at an infectious disease hospital in Kano.  According to the government, Pfizer did not receive prior authorization to administer the drug and about 50 children either developed deformities or died from taking the controversial antibiotic. The government is seeking $7 billion in damages.
Pfizer, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies vehemently denies any wrongdoing. “The 1996 Trovan clinical study in Kano was conducted with the approval of the Nigerian government, and the consent of the participants’ parents or guardians, and was consistent with both international and Nigerian laws” a recent press release from Pfizer states. “Pfizer remains confident that it will prevail in these cases, and is weighing its options on how to best respond to this decision.” There is no doubt that this is bad timing for the US Court of Appeals to hand down this decision as Pfizer recently announced it’s merger with Wyeth, another world renowned company. If the lawsuit continues its path through the courts, it will certainly reflect negatively on both companies by its stockholders and the public at large.
The effects of the Trovan experiments have reverberated through time and are still being felt over a decade later. Two years ago, a polio vaccination campaign in Nigeria that was organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) was met with a weak response as Nigerian residents feared for their lives. As a result, the polio spread from northern Nigeria to neighboring countries. Many Nigerians have become distrusting of foreign drug companies even making claims that “there was a western plot to sterilize Muslim women,” (BBC News). This suspicion could be disastrous as many preventative drugs and medications could prove useful in some of Nigeria’s impoverished areas.
Trovan has since been licensed for use in the United States.
Nigeria and Pfizer representatives have been negotiating an out-of-court settlement since last year. The case against Pfizer in Kano has been adjourned until early April to allow for a deal.

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