After 15-year court battle, Pfizer reluctantly compensates Nigerian families whose loved ones injured, killed by illegal drug experiment

Thursday, August 18, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Pfizer, drug experiments, health news

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(NaturalNews) The families of children who were permanently injured or killed in an illegal 1996 Pfizer drug trial in Nigeria are finally starting to get the promised financial compensation for their losses, according to a recent report by BBC News. After trials involving the experimental anti-meningitis drug Trovan left 11 Nigerian children dead and dozens more injured, Pfizer initially refused to admit fault, claiming that the drug was not the cause. The drug giant eventually agreed to settle the issue out of court, however, and 15 years later is finally starting to distribute payments.

There was a meningitis epidemic in Kano, a city in northern Nigeria, during the time when Pfizer came into the country and began pushing Trovan on young children. The goal of the trial was to prove that Trovan was more effective than other established treatments for meningitis, even though it never had legal authority to do so. In the end, many of the 200 children who participated in this illicit medical experiment paid the ultimate price with either their health or their lives.

When news of permanent disabilities and deaths first began to surface, Pfizer insisted that meningitis, not Trovan, was responsible. But the Kano government was persistent in pursuing justice in the matter on behalf of its people, and it eventually forced Pfizer into a settlement agreement. And besides payments made to the victims' families, Pfizer also agreed to sponsor various health projects in Kano to be determined by the government.

"People and entities can and must be held accountable for the consequences of their conduct," said Babatunde Irukera, attorney for the state of Kano, to the Washington Post back in 2009 when the settlement was finally reached. "People around the world are no different and must be accorded the same levels of protections, always."

The original lawsuit sought $9 billion in restitution for damages and 31 criminal counts, which according to the Washington Post included homicide. Pfizer's Chairman Emeritus, William C. Steere Jr., was named as one of the defendants. While that suit was dropped in exchange for the settlement, Nigeria's federal government also filed a separate suit seeking roughly $6 billion in damages that was not affected by the settlement.

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