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Pfizer in Nigerian Court Over $8.5 Billion in Lawsuits


A Nigerian court has resumed hearings for U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer on allegations it caused the death of Nigerian children when it conducted a clinical trial in the country. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa has more in this report from Abuja.

The federal high court in Abuja granted the Nigerian government's request to serve summons on Pfizer to answer criminal allegations and a $6.5 billion compensation demand in a civil lawsuit over a 1996 drug trial.

The case was then adjourned until October 22.

Another suit involving Pfizer and the northern state of Kano was also postponed to allow the defendants to be served court summons. The Kano state government is seeking $2 billion in compensation.

Both federal and Kano state authorities blame Pfizer for the death of 11 children after the company conducted a clinical trial of Trovan in the country. Several of the 200 children involved in the trial allegedly suffered permanent health problems. Pfizer has also been accused of conducting illegal clinical trials in the West African country.

Pfizer has denied wrongdoing and insists the alleged victims were affected by meningitis, not Trovan.

More than 12,000 Nigerian children are reported to have died in six months from the 1996 epidemic of meningitis, an infection of the nervous system that can kill in hours

Hundreds of protesters besieged the regional office of the Pfizer in the northern city of Kaduna on Wednesday to protest Pfizer's alleged culpability.

Journalist Saxonne Aikhaine watched the protest in Kaduna.

"The human rights community in the north, led by Shehu Sani, converged with a crowd at the northern zonal office of Pfizer where they held a rally this afternoon. Shehu Sani who spoke, said they were going to initiate a campaign against Pfizer," said Aikhaine. "That if Pfizer refuses to compensate those that were affected by the Trovan drug in Kano, they are going to mobilize Nigerians to boycott their [Pfizer] products."

Officials of Kano state are expected to hold talks with Pfizer in the United States in November, raising the prospect of an out-of-court settlement.