Settlement agreement

Pfizer settles lawsuits over drug trials on children in Nigeria

Nearly 15 years after its controversial drug trial on 200 children with meningitis in Nigeria, Pfizer Inc. and all plaintiffs in the cases related to the trial announced today that they have reached a global settlement.

In a joint statement, the parties said, "Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the plaintiffs will join the ongoing Healthcare/Meningitis Trust Fund process, which is being managed by an independent Board of Trustees in Kano, Nigeria.

"The cases have been amicably resolved after many years of litigation. The settlement will bring an end to all litigation pertaining to Trovan in the United States and Nigeria and allow for just compensation for participants in the study and their families."

Bradley Lerman, Pfizer senior vice president and associate general counsel, said in a statement: "The settlement of the cases pertaining to Trovan clears the way for the board to finalize its work in Nigeria to determine claimants' eligibility. We are pleased that this agreement moves us one step closer to providing compensation to those for whom the fund was intended. Putting an end to all litigation related to Trovan will allow Pfizer to focus all its attention on bringing health care solutions to benefit all the people of Nigeria."

Pfizer spokesman Christopher Loder said the trust fund can pay a maximum of $175,000 per child to those able to prove death or permanent disability due to the 1996 trial of Trovan. The antibiotic has since been restricted to adult emergency care in America because of its damaging side effects.

Loder said the settlement is confidential and he could not discuss if there were any other terms. Plaintiffs' lawyer Peter Safirstein of Milberg also declined comment beyond the statement.

Both parties agreed to pay their own court costs, according to a stipulation order posted today in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. That's where families of the children first filed suit in 2001 under the Alien Tort Statute.

The suit accused Pfizer of using the experimental drug without the consent of the parents, and of not telling the families that another acceptable drug was available and was being used by Doctors Without Borders in Nigeria to treat the epidemic. Pfizer denied their allegations.

The families battled Pfizer all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and back after U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley, III, had dismissed the suit in 2005. As of a hearing on Friday, the case was still in the pre-trial motion stage.

But earlier this month the plaintiffs' cause took a bleak turn when the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled en banc in a different case that claims against a corporation cannot be brought under the Alien Tort Statute. Rather than risk another dismissal and another appeal that was destined to lose at the next level, the plaintiffs agreed on Friday to settle all claims both in the U.S. and Nigeria.

Pfizer established the $35 million Healthcare/Meningitis Trust Fund as part of settling a suit in 2007 brought by the Kano state government, where the drug trial took place. That settlement also is confidential.

Until now, the trust fund money has been tied up in legal battles in Nigeria, where some families opposed taking a DNA test.

(Published by - February 23, 2011)

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