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Pfizer close to settling deadly drug test case

Article published on the 2009-02-27 Latest update 2009-02-27 14:55 TU

Pfizer carried out drug tests at this hospital in Kanu, Nigeria(Photo: AFP)

Pfizer carried out drug tests at this hospital in Kanu, Nigeria
(Photo: AFP)

American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has reached an out-of-court settlement with the Nigerian families of the victims of its drug trials in Kano, which left hundreds of children dead and maimed.

“Pfizer and families of the victims of the drug trial have reached an out-of-court settlement in principle but have agreed to meet in Rome in March to put the deal in writing,” a negotiator revealed on the condition of anonymity.

The case stems from the 1996 trails of a meningitis drug on Nigerian children that left 11 dead and 189 others with deformities and handicaps.

The Kanu state government is seeking 2.75 billion dollars (2.17 billion euros) in damages, while in a separate case, the Nigerian federal government has asked for 6.5 billion dollars (5.1 billion euros).

The source would not say how much money the tentative agreement included.

The case is similar to the subject-matter of the 2005 film The Constant Gardener, based on a John le Carré novel by the same name.

Baba Tunde Erukera, a lawyer for the Kano state government, denies knowledge of the settlement, but says that the government will continue fighting its cases, even if the families settle.

“The cases in the Nigerian courts were not filed by the families,” he says. “If there was a resolution between the victims and Pfizer, it would not in any way affect the validity of the claims by the government in the Nigerian courts.”

Interview: Baba Tunde Erukera, lawyer for the Kano state government

27/02/2009 by William Niba

But Erukera says that a settelement by the families would be welcome.

“The government would not resolve its cases without Pfizer resolving the victims' cases.”

Instead of resolving everything piecemeal, Erukera suggests that Pfizer should “resolve everything holistically”.

Former US President Jimmy Carter and former Nigerian president Yakubu Gowon have been involved in the negotiations, he says.

“They’ve been approached by Pfizer to assist them with mediating this, talking with the governments here to look more favourably to an amicable solution.”