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Pfizer’s Trovan Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Out

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A group of Nigerian families will be able to sue Pfizer Inc. in a US courtroom for injuries and deaths they claim were the result of a non-consensual drug trial involving the antibiotic Trovan. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Pfizer’s appeal of a lower court’s decision to let the Trovan lawsuit proceed.

The families of around 200 Nigerian children wanted to have the case heard in the US, citing widespread corruption in their home country. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the suit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a 200-year-old law which empowers federal judges to hear civil lawsuits filed by non-US citizens for violations of the “law of nations.”

In its appeal, Pfizer argued that the case should be thrown out of court because the alleged drug experiments are not the precise type of international law violation covered under the ATS.

According to Reuters, the case will now go back to a federal judge in New York. Pfizer can again ask the judge to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that it should be heard in Nigeria, and for various other reasons.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Trovan for use by adults only in 1998. After reports of liver failure, its use in the US was restricted to adult emergency care. The European Union banned its use in 1999.

Pfizer tested Trovan in Nigeria in 1996 during a meningitis epidemic. Last July, Pfizer announced it would pay a $75 million settlement to the Nigerian government in exchange for the dismissal of civil and criminal charges in that country.

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