Nigerian state sues Pfizer over 'deformity' drug

May 2007

KANO, Nigeria (AFP) - Nigeria's largest state has sued US drug firm Pfizer for allegedly using 200 children as "guinea pigs" for a drug test in 1996 that led to multiple deaths and deformities, officials said Sunday.

Authorities in Kano filed the suit last week at the high court, where they are seeking 2.75 billion dollars (2.04 billion euros) in compensation from the pharmaceutical giant.

The state accuses Pfizer of "secretly using children as guinea pigs to test a drug under the guise of humanitarian gesture". Preliminary hearings in the suit have been fixed for June 4.

Back in April 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Pfizer volunteered to help in Kano following an outbreak of measles, cholera and meningitis that led to the deaths of more than 3,000 people.

Pfizer was alleged to have administered an untested drug called Trovan Floxacin without authorisation on almost 200 children infected with meningitis in the state.

Eleven of the children reportedly died, while the remaining 181 were said to have suffered from deafness, paralysis, brain damage and blindness.

The scandal prompted residents of the Muslim-dominated state to reject any form of vaccinations including until recently a government-backed polio immunisation drive.