Source AP ©

Pfizer apllies to court to disallow a Nigerian government report saying drug experiment led to children deaths

Pfizer pharmaceutical company asked a court to disallow a Nigerian government report from being considered in lawsuits, which said a drug experiment held more than ten years ago led to deaths and injuries among children.

The company said it filed its petition Thursday at the Federal High Court in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, asking judges to rule that the government's findings were "illegal and inaccurate and should therefore be quashed."

Government lawyers were not immediately available for comment. It was unclear when a ruling could be expected.

New York-based Pfizer Inc. treated 100 meningitis-infected children with an experimental antibiotic, Trovan, in a 1996 study. Another 100 children, who were control patients, received an approved antibiotic, though families lawyers' have claimed the dose was lower than recommended.

The government has charged that the company conducted the study without the full knowledge of parents or proper regulatory approval - contributing to deaths of some children and illness in others.

Eleven children died - five of those on Trovan and six in the control group, while others suffered physical disabilities and brain damage. Pfizer has insisted its records show none of the deaths was linked to Trovan or substandard treatment, noting that the study showed a better survival rate for the patients on Trovan than those on the standard drug, and that mental damage and other serious disabilities are known aftereffects of meningitis.

The government has filed four separate cases at the federal and local levels, seeking billions of dollars in damages from Pfizer.

Pfizer said in a statement Friday that it had not been allowed to cross-examine witnesses interviewed for the government report, which it said was the basis of all four suits. It also said officials involved in writing the report were biased.

Authorities in Kano state have blamed the Pfizer affair for widespread suspicion of government public health policies, particularly the global effort to vaccinate children against polio.

Islamic leaders in largely Muslim Kano had seized on the Pfizer controversy as evidence of a U.S.-led conspiracy. Rumors that polio vaccines spread AIDS or infertility spurred Kano and another heavily Muslim state, Zamfara, to boycott a polio vaccination campaign four years ago.

Vaccination programs restarted in Nigeria in 2004, after an 11-month boycott. But the delay set back global eradication. The boycott was blamed for causing an outbreak that spread the disease across Africa and into the Middle East.

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