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Pfizer and Nigeria Getting Closer to Reaching a Settlement in Trovan Drug Trial Suit

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In 1996, during a deadly meningitis epidemic that killed over 10,000 people in Nigeria, Pfizer illegally tested the antibiotic Trovan on children in the state of Kano. Trovan was never approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use on children, and was only approved for adults during a very short period of time and under severe restrictions. The Nigerian government filed suit in 2007 seeking more than $10 billion in damages alleging (amongst other things) that Trovan killed 11 children and disabled dozens more. The suit claims that Pfizer used over 200 children as guinea pigs for a drug that was not approved, that there was no consent to test the drug, and that the trial failed to abide by U.S. patient-protection laws.

Negotiations between Pfizer and the Nigerian government have been underway for over a year taking place in Nigeria, London, and Dubai. Pfizer’s argues the drug trial was safe and legal, and "with full knowledge of the Nigerian government and in a responsible and ethical way." However, the Nigerian government and the nation’s Health Minister argue that it was "an illegal trial of an unregistered drug" and "a clear case of exploitation of the ignorant." The settlement terms and details remain under wraps, but sources say it is close to $75 million. According to Joe Stephens of the Washington Post, this case "represents a rare instance in which the developing world’s anger at multinational corporations has boiled over into criminal charges" and has been followed closely by both medical ethicists and legal experts.