June 4, 2007 / 7:32 PM / 10 years ago

Nigeria files suit against Pfizer, seeks $6.95 bln

(Adds quote, details)

ABUJA, June 4 (Reuters) - Nigeria filed charges against Pfizer (PFE.N) on Monday seeking $6.95 billion in damages for the drugmaker’s alleged role in the deaths of children who received an unapproved drug during a meningitis epidemic.

Nigeria alleged in papers filed at a Federal High Court in the capital Abuja that Pfizer, the world’s biggest drugmaker, did not obtain approval from the relevant regulatory agencies and acted unethically when it tested the antibiotic Trovan in the northern Muslim state of Kano state in 1996.

“The plaintiff contends that the defendant never obtained approval of the relevant regulatory agencies ... nor did the defendant seek or receive approval to conduct any clinical trial at any time before their illegal conduct,” Nigeria said in court papers obtained by Reuters.

After taking preliminary arguments from counsels to both parties, Justice Babs Kuewumi adjourned the case to June 26 for further hearing.

The suit came days after the Kano state government filed criminal charges and a civil lawsuit in another court seeking $2.075 billion in damages from Pfizer over the tests, which it alleges caused the deaths of some children and permanent health problems for others.

Pfizer denies the allegations by the Kano state government and says it acted ethically. Hearing of the cases was delayed on Monday until July.

Nigeria is seeking $500 million being the amount the government says it spent on treatment, compensation and support for the Trovan victims and their families, and $450 million on public enlightenment to erase social misgivings that arose from the ill-fated tests.

The government says it spent $1 billion on a health programme that failed because of the misgivings caused by the Trovan tests, while it is claiming $5 billion in general damages.

((Reporting by Camillus Eboh, writing by Tume Ahemba, editing by Myra MacDonald; Lagos newsroom tel: +234 1 463 0257)) Keywords: NIGERIA PFIZER/COURT

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