5 October 2009

Nigeria: Pfizer - Victims' Medical Records Missing

Kano — THE medical records of the victims of the 1996 Pfizer Trovan clinical trial cannot be found either at the Kano State Ministry of Health or at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) where the ill-fated clinical trials of the drug were conducted, the state's Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Barrister Aliyu Umar said in Kano yesterday. This happened just as he confirmed that the state government had received $10million from Pfizer, being part of the $75million settlement of the protracted dispute.

Umar said failure to lay its hands on the medical records informed the state government's decision to set up the Meningitis Healthcare Trust Fund charged with the responsibility of disbursing the compensation funds to rightful victims of the illegal drug clinical test.

He said seven criteria have been laid down to identify the victims, including DNA, as demanded by Pfizer. He however said the DNA test should not be seen as a big deal as a victim can also be paid if he or she meets the other criteria.

The attorney-general dismissed insinuations that Kano Emirate Council openly kicked against the DNA test, saying the council only interfered in the case when the matter was in court where it suggested that the legal tangle be settled out of court. The attorney-general was responding to Daily Trust's enquiries on the seeming delay in the release of compensation funds. Of the 10 million dollars just released by Pfizer, he said 4.5 million dollars have been set aside as logistics and operational costs of the two trust funds jointly set up by Pfizer and Kano State government for the compensation and construction of the proposed healthcare projects in Kano.

Pfizer agreed to pay 75 million dollars for the victims, Kano government and legal expenses following the out of court settlement. Of these, 35 million dollars are for the victims, 30 million dollars for the government and 10 million dollars for the legal expenses incurred during the long trial.

Umar said the initial plan was that the whole compensation was to be finally settled by October 15, but the process has now been extended by three months because of some unforeseen hitches.

Kano government, according to him, would use its 30 million dollar compensation for the construction of a disease control center as well as a diagnostic centre in order to discourage patients from travelling abroad for medical treatment. He said the government spends a lot of money in referring patients abroad for treatment where in most cases not more than 500 dollars are needed for the treatment of ailments diagnosed in a foreign hospital.

On the alleged delay by the two funds in their assigned responsibilities, Executive Secretary for the funds Mr. David Odiwo said the bodies had since swung into action and pledged to work according to their terms of reference. He said it was mutually agreed between Kano government and Pfizer that 4.5 million dollars be set aside for all operations of the two funds from the 30 million dollar programme fund.

Professor Shehu Galadanchi heads the Pfizer/Kano State Healthcare Programme Trust Fund charged with the responsibility of overseeing the construction of the major health projects in the state with Arch. Ibrahim Haruna, Dr Habibu Sadauki, Alhaji Adamu Jafiya, Adamu Aliyu Kiyawa and Professor Auwalu Hamisu Yadudu as members.

The Pfizer/Kano State Meningitis Healthcare Trust Fund that is responsible for the disbursement of the 35 million dollar compensation to the victims is chaired by Justice Abubakar Bashir Wali with Dr Musa Borodo, Professor Mu'uta Ibrahim, Justice S.M.A Belgore, Dr Prosper Igboeli and Professor Isa Hashim as members.

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