KANO, May 12 – Nigerian families have refused 35 million dollars in compensation from US firm Pfizer over a drug trial blamed for children\’s deaths due to a DNA testing dispute, their lawyers said Tuesday.
An out-of-court settlement over a 1996 meningitis drug trial that allegedly left 11 children dead and 189 others deformed was reached last year, but the families\’ lawyers have now called for a halt to the payouts.
A letter written by the lawyers from the firm of Streamsowers & Kohn asked a board of trustees appointed by the US pharmaceutical giant and Kano state government to immediately cease processing the compensation.
"We hereby give you notice on behalf of all our clients…that they…do hereby withdraw their applications to the board for compensation with regard to the injuries they suffered as a result of the Trovan Clinical Trial of 1996," the lawyers said in a letter to the board.
The letter, seen by AFP, accused Pfizer, among others, of unfairness by insisting on conducting DNA tests on the victims and their families. The DNA tests would be used for identification purposes.
"We are concerned that your board has accepted Pfizer’s claim to have DNA samples of our clients without independent verification," the letter says.
"Your board has failed to answer the pertinent question of how it intends to confirm that any DNA samples Pfizer may send are not those of children from other parts of Nigeria or indeed Africa," it added.
Kano state government had filed criminal and civil suits in April 2007 against Pfizer demanding 2.75 billion dollars in compensation.
It charged that Pfizer carried out an illegal trial of a meningitis drug, Trovan Floxacin, on 200 children in 1996 during a triple epidemic of meningitis, measles and cholera in which over 12,000 people died.
Pfizer denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the trial was conducted with the consent of the Nigerian government and conformed to ethical procedures.
After two years of legal wrangling, Pfizer and Kano reached a 75-million-dollar settlement which included 35 million dollars in compensation to the victims. Families of 192 children had sought compensation.
Kano State last August withdrew a landmark criminal and civil suit against the US drug firm following the deal.