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Pfizer Talks with Kano State Government in Nigeria Fail


The U.S. pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, has confirmed in a statement that out of court talks with the Kano State government in northern Nigeria have broken down. Kano State is suing Pfizer for more than $2 billion for a 1996 clinical drug trial that it says killed 11 children. Sarah Simpson has more from Lagos.

In the statement, Pfizer described as "unfortunate" a decision by Kano State officials to call off talks over an alleged illegal clinical drug test.

Kano state officials had previously said discussions intended to reach an out of court settlement with the drug company ended because they were dissatisfied with the way the talks were going. However, in the Pfizer statement, Spokesman Chris Loder said efforts to try the case in the media and intimidate the company and the courts had impeded the process.

Kano State is suing Pfizer for over $2 billion for what it says was an unauthorized clinical trial of a meningitis treatment on children in 1996. They say the trials left 11 children dead, and seriously disabled others.

Pfizer says the 11 children died of meningitis. It says those left disabled display symptoms associated with meningitis survivors.

Pfizer has rigorously maintained that it had the full authorization of the Nigerian federal and state governments before conducting the trial, and that consent was obtained from parents or guardians of all 200 children involved.

Kano State Attorney General Aliyu Umar disputes this. He says the drug company took advantage of poor, illiterate Nigerians to carry out tests amid the panic of an epidemic.

More than 12,000 Nigerian children died in the 1996 epidemic of meningitis, an infection of the nervous system that can kill a victim within hours.

Umar says any money paid to Kano State by Pfizer will go to help the children and families of those involved in the trial. But to date, the families of the children who died and those left seriously disabled say they have not received any money or assistance from their government, and even if a payout is awarded to Kano State, few of the families expect any of the cash to reach them.

Some groups that monitor governmental accountability say Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The country earns billions of dollars each year from oil exports, yet the majority of Nigerians live in poverty.

The Kano civil case against Pfizer continues, with the next hearing scheduled for January 28.

The federal government is also seeking several billion dollars in compensation through federal courts.

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