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Pfizer, Nigeria settle in drug suit

ABUJA, Jul 31 – US drugmaker Pfizer reached a 75-million-dollar (53-million-euro) final settlement with a Nigerian state Thursday over 1996 drug trials that led to the deaths of 11 children, a joint statement said.

"We are pleased to announce that we have reached a final agreement to settle the Trovan litigation between Pfizer and Kano State government," the statement by the two parties said.

"The parties agreed that settlement is in the best interest of both parties as it avoids the cost and distraction of protracted litigation and enables both of us to focus on our core missions and business," it added.

"The settlement is on the basis of no admission of liability by Pfizer in connection with the 1996 Troval study," the statement said.

The northern state of Kano filed civil and criminal suits against Pfizer demanding 2.75 billion dollars in compensation and the prosecution of staff for what it said was an illegal test of the meningitis drug Trovan on 200 children.

The trials were carried out in the state capital Kano during a triple epidemic of measles, cholera and meningitis in which more than 12,000 people died.

Eleven children died after taking Trovan, which is also alleged to have caused deformities including blindness, deafness, brain damage and paralysis in 189 others.

But in a statement, Pfizer maintained that the results of its clinical study showed that Trovan "helped save lives and was at least as effective as the best treatment available at Kano’s Infectious Disease Hospital" during what it said was "Nigeria\’s worst meningitis epidemic in history."

Pfizer Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel Brad Lerman said: "We have been a partner with the people and governments of Nigeria for more than 50 years."

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He added: "The company believes that a mutually agreeable resolution to the Trovan cases is the best way to continue that relationship and allow Pfizer and the Nigerian governments to focus on what matters – improving healthcare for all Nigerians."

However, a case between Nigeria\’s federal government and Pfizer over the same issue is still pending in court, a government lawyer in the case, Babatunde Irukera, told AFP.

"I believe they (the parties) will engage in discussion and resolve that one too as time goes on," he said.

The joint statement by Kano State and Pfizer on Thursday said that one of the terms of the settlement was that there would be "no admission of liability by Pfizer in connection with the 1996 Troval study."

Under the terms of the deal Pfizer agreed to establish a healthcare/meningitis Trust Fund of up to 35 million dollars and underwrite several Kano State healthcare initiatives, totalling 30 million dollars.

Pfizer will also reimburse Kano for 10 million dollars in legal costs associated with the litigation, it also said.

"Finally, we are pleased that after several years of litigation, the settlement will bring to an end to all the court cases between Kano State and Pfizer," the statement said.

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