Nigeria: Trovan Case - U.S. Court Rejects Pfizer Appeal
Ahuraka Yusuf Isah and Winifred Ogbebo
29 June 2010
Abuja The Supreme Court of the United States of America yesterday declined to hear an appeal by Pfizer Incorporated in a ruling that reinstated US lawsuits by Nigerian families who said the drugmaker tested an experimental antibiotic on their children without getting adequate consent.
The justices, without comment, let stand a ruling by a US appeal court in New York that allowed the lawsuits involving alleged harm caused by the drug, Trovan, to go forward.
The Obama administration had earlier urged the justices to reject Pfizer's appeal, saying the questions presented did not warrant Supreme Court review
Pfizer said in a statement, "Today's decision, however, is not a determination on the merits of these cases, but rather a procedural ruling."
Meanwhile a federal high court in Abuja has temporarily halted the disbursement of about N50 billion compensation to the victims of the Trovan experiment in April 1996 in Kano State.
The court also stopped the conduct of DNA test being executed by the Health Care Meningitis Trust Fund Ltd to determine the real victims of the controversial trovan vaccine.
The order of the court handed down yesterday in Abuja followed the conflict of interests among the victims on who and who were the real victims of the disputed meningitis drugs.
Ruling in an oral application for the order of interim injunction moved by Etigwe Uwa (SAN) on behalf of 192 victims, Justice Gabriel Kolawole said the order became necessary to prevent the case of the plaintiffs from being destroyed.
The court held that should the compensation be effected during the pendency of the case, the 192 victims might be left barred and unprotected in the deal.
Justice Kolawole opined that the victims had a right to justice and that nothing would be lost by all the defendants in the fresh suit upon the new order.
The action of the court was prompted by the refusal of some defendants to make an undertaking that they would not take any action on the disputed money and the test while the case lasted.
Similarly, the court also took judicial notice of the failure of the defendants to file their response in respect of the case since May 26 when the court ordered them to do so.
The defendants are the Healthcare Meningitis Trust Fund Ltd, the Attorney General of Kano state, Pfizer Incorporated, Pfizer Specialties Ltd, David Odiwo the Attorney General of the Federation and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
About 200 victims were registered in 1996, some of whom were said to have either lost their lives or suffered permanent disability when the alleged drugs were administered on them to protect them against the meningitis infection.
Attempts by the Trust Board in charge of the fund to conduct DNA tests to determine the real victims were opposed by the new victims on the ground that they cannot trust the conduct of any test now, 14 years after the drug trial."