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Kano Trovan crisis: Dust yet to settle despite Pfizer’s out of court settlement

By Sola Ogundipe

FOR the 200 or so victims of the 1996 Pfizer Trovan saga in Kano, it has been a long tortuous journey and even as multinational pharmaceutical giant agreed to pay an out-of-court settlement of $75 millon (about N10 billion) to the 88 families of patients involved in the trial, there may be no songs or dances of victory.

Each family of those affected is to receive $175,000 (N20 million). Prosecutors had sought $2.75bn (N320 billion) in compensation from the US drug giant and others, accusing it of conducting an unlicenced trial of the drug in the 200 children during the  meningitis epidemic in 1996, widely regarded as the worst known meningitis outbreak in sub-Saharan Africa..

However, Pfizer had consistently denied the allegations that it conducted illegal trial of its meningitis drug Trovan (trovafloxacin) that resulted in the death of 11 children. Those reportedly treated by the company ended up with adverse effects like deafness, muteness, paralysis, brain damage, loss of sight, slurred speech and death.

But it is widely believed that Pfizer probably settled out of court to put to rest the long-drawn case. Full details of the settlement described as a broad and fundamental agreement with the Kano State government are being announced as Pfizer is expected to pay the $75 million made up of $35 million to the bereaved  families and victims involved in the trial; $30 milllion will go to Kano State government and another $10 million in legal fees. A Board of Trustees headed by two retired justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Mustapha Belgore and Justice Bashir Wali is in charge.

The Kano trovan (trovafloxacin) trial litigation began shortly after tests of the drug on 100 Nigerian children, suffering from meningitis in Kano,. Five of the children eventually died, while several others are suffering life-altering injuries. Pfizer also treated 100 children with Cefrriaxone – a standard anti-meningitis drug . Six of these later died. Overall, 12,000 people died in the epidemic.

Survivors of the trovafloxacin test attempted to bring a number of legal actions against Pfizer resulting in four undecided judicial opinions.


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