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Nigeria Files New Lawsuit Against Pfizer

Nigeria filed a new lawsuit Friday against US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer claiming some 6.5 billion dollars in damages for deaths allegedly stemming from drug trials.

Hours after dropping its original suit claiming seven billion dollars in damages, government lawyer Babatunde Irukera presented a new complaint to the high court alleging the tests conducted in 1996 were "unlawful and reprehensible".

"We are refiling a new suit. The new action will have a significant number of facts that will be vital to the court consideration on what actually happened in Kano in 1996," the lawyer said.

"The new suit contains more courses of action and facts. There are new fraud charges. We have added things like restitution, unjust enrichment and post-clinical fraudulent conduct."

The suit claims 826.4 billion naira or about 6.45 billion dollars in damages related to the tests of an antibiotic called Trovan, which allegedly killed 11 children.

Another 181 children reportedly suffered side effects such as deafness, paralysis, brain damage and blindness.

Pfizer denies the charges. No date has been set for the hearings to commence.

Authorities in Kano, Nigeria's largest state, are seeking 2.75 billion dollars in a separate suit. A hearing in that case is due on October 3.

The government alleges the tests were "neither humanitarian nor philantropic, but purely commercial in nature."

Its earlier complaint accused Pfizer of administering the antibiotic without authorisation or parental consent among children at a field hospital during an epidemic of meningitis, measles and cholera.

The company last week said it had received the go-ahead from Nigerian authorities before administering the drug.

A lawyer for Pfizer, Afe Babalola, said the withdrawal of the earlier suit reflected the weakness of the government's case.

"It's unf ortunate that the rules of the court permit them to withdraw without the case being disposed," Babalola told AFP.

"We wish it was possible to dispose the case. That would have been the end of the matter. They had a very poor case, that's why they withdrew it."

There was no immediate comment from the company about the new suit.


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