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Pfizer blocks Trovan prosecution in Nigeria

A Nigerian court adjourns civil and criminal cases brought by the federal government against Pfizer over technicalities related to anti-infective Trovan

A Nigerian court has adjourned civil and criminal cases brought by the federal government against US pharmaceutical company Pfizer over technicalities related to its anti-infective drug, Trovan (trovafloxacin).

The federal government and the northern state of Kano are suing Pfizer for a total of USD 8.5bn over the 1996 testing of the antibacterial drug Trovan on children in the region during an epidemic of meningitis.

The government claims that Trovan was responsible for the deaths of 11 children and caused permanent health problems in others. It adds that Pfizer did not obtain the correct regulatory approval for the trial and misled parents.

Pfizer denies the charges, saying that it was meningitis and not Trovan that killed the children.

The civil and criminal cases, which are being heard separately in a federal and a Kano state court, were launched in May 2007, but have yet to go to court. Pfizer had previously applied to the court to disregard an expert report on the Trovan trial, arguing it was biased and scientifically inaccurate.

Local media reports have said that the counsel representing the government could not bring Pfizer officials to court because the company got an injunction at a Lagos court restraining the police from bringing its officials to court for prosecution.

The government lead counsel asked the court for a date to enable the complainants time to convince the Lagos court to withdraw the order restraining police from arresting the defendants in order to bring Pfizer to court for prosecution.

The presiding judge adjourned the case to 28 January 2008.

The court has also adjourned the victims' application to be joined in the case to 3 December for parties to file their written addresses on arguments for and against the application.

Pfizer is contesting that the move for application for victims to be joined in the case was illegal because the victims' families lacked representative capacity to be involved and that their application does not disclose sufficient interest in the subject matter to enable the court exercise jurisdiction.

30th September 2008

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