Monday 2 March 2009

Nigeria: Pfizer reaches settlement

A settlement agreed
Following one’s comments on this matter, it behoves one to present an update on developing circumstances.
On the 26th of February 2009, the newswires [1] announced that under the negotiating auspices of General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd.) [2] who was the leader of Nigeria from 1966 to 1975 and former President Jimmy Carter [3]; the Kano State government in Northern Nigeria and Pfizer - the pharmaceutical conglomerate have in principle reached an out-of-court settlement.
This settlement which would be fully negotiated in March 2009 does not at the moment confer blame, admission or culpability but pursuant to the $2.75 billion compensation claim on behalf of 11 dead children and 189 other affected children, this settlement would close the criminal and civil cases brought against Pfizer.
The courts still sit
Much as Pfizer has protested its drug trial of trovafloxacin (Trovan) [4] conducted during a major outbreak of measles, cholera and meningitis “conformed to ethical practices and was carried out with the consent of the Nigerian government”, the cases against Pfizer which have been in the courts since 2001 [5] have had resilience [6] that it must now be a public relations nightmare for the company.
However, the woes of Pfizer have not ended because this settlement is quite different from another suit brought by the Federal Government of Nigeria for the compensatory sum of $6.5 million.
My hope for the victims
Obviously, once this settlement is completed, it is my hope that this money be put in trust for the 200 victims and their guardians for the improvement of their lives and one also hopes that the involvement of the Kano State government is for ethical, altruistic and compassionate reasons.
Knowing that the victims are rural folk, there is the danger that decisions might be made for their lives and livelihood that does not reflect the full compensation won on their behalf and it would be atrocious if administrative costs are exacted from the same claim when it appears from Pfizer’s perspective the government was culpable in the drug trial by offering consent on behalf of the people who probably did not know they were being used in unconscionable experiments.
In all, if the good names of Mr Gowon and Mr Carter are involved in this deal, their job would only be complete if the sense of justice and fairness catapults these wronged people out of their circumstances onto a trajectory of life-changing experiences.
This matter would be watched closely to see where it ends.
Earlier blogs on this issue

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