The American Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has been taken to court and will  dish out compensation to victims in Kano, Nigeria, who have allegedly been left deformed or even died as a result of the testing of a vaccine for meningitis. DNA testing will be used to establish the validity of the claims by the families of victims and those suffering from deformities as a result of the drug tests.

In 1996, during an epidemic of meningitis, cholera and measles; Pfizer is said to have carried out illegal drug trials with the drug Trovan Floxacin, a broad spectrum antibiotic, on over 200 children. 12, 000 people were left victims of the epidemic.

A Nigerian court may however, halt all proceedings. The DNA tests needed to identify victims and relatives are to be carried out by a team of American scientists but following the court order, the testing might not commence. The families of the almost 200 victims of the 1996 drug tests have rallied together presenting a case in which they object to the DNA tests on the victims as there is no independent verification of the DNA samples; these tests would technically be needed to identify victims but the board representing the families question how they can be sure these DNA samples are not from other children in Nigeria.   The victims themselves are attempting to stop Pfizer having any judiciary control over the matter.

The issue is that the numbers of claims have far out done the number of people who actually took part in the drug trials in 1996. The lawyers representing the families want the DNA testing procedures and compensation to cease. They ground their claims in unfairness caused by conducting these DNA tests in Nigeria and have rejected the 35 million dollar compensation offer. The Kano State Court has filed an official suit for 2.75 billion $.  Objection put forward include the suggestions that Pfizer has taken advantage of the widespread illiteracy of the people.

The Chairman of the victims, Alhaji Mustapha Maisikeli has objected to the families’ claims saying that names had suddenly appeared on the compensation list which were not originally part of the deal. This, he claims, is highly unfair on Pfizer.

DNA testing would technically be used to ensure the rightful victims are entitled to the settlement; that their death or deformity is truly linked to the testing of the drug and not other causes. Some families want to be tested to be able to prove that they lost a relative in the 1996 drug trails. Pfizer sticks to its guns insisting that it has acted ethically.