A judge on Wednesday authorized prosecutors to serve court summons on Pfizer's retired chief executive and other company officials in a case involving a drug study that prosecutors say led to deaths and disabilities among children.
Pfizer officials, including retired CEO William Steere, are named in cases filed by officials in the northern Nigerian state of Kano stemming from a trial of a meningitis drug that Nigerian prosecutors say injured young subjects.
A separate federal criminal case and two civil cases - one filed by federal authorities, the other by state authorities - also were pending.
A judge in Kano, the city with the same name as the state where the study was conducted in 1996, allowed for papers to be served to the Pfizer staff in the criminal case.
Prosecutors said that would compel the defendants to attend the next hearing in the state criminal case, which was scheduled for Nov. 6.
Prosecutors say the defendants were criminally negligent, among other charges. If convicted the defendants could face at least seven years in prison.
New York-based Pfizer, the world's biggest drugmaker, denies all the allegations.
A judge hearing the federal civil case also ruled that Steere and others may be served notice. That case, filed by the federal government and under deliberation in the capital Abuja, has been adjourned until Oct. 22.
Pfizer said Wednesday after the proceedings it had not been summoned before in any criminal cases.
"Neither the company nor any of the individuals have been served with criminal papers in this case," said a Pfizer spokesman, Christopher Loder, from New York.
Steere was Pfizer's chief executive between 1991 and 2001, the period during which the test was carried out.
In a statement, Pfizer reiterated its position that "it acted ethically in carrying out the 1996 clinical investigation of the efficacy of its drug, Trovan."
Pfizer treated 100 meningitis-infected children with an experimental antibiotic, Trovan, in a 1996 study. Another 100 children, who were control patients, received an approved antibiotic, though families lawyers' have claimed the dose was lower than recommended.
The government has charged that the company conducted the study without the full knowledge of parents or proper regulatory approval.
Eleven children died - five of those on Trovan and six in the control group, while others suffered physical disabilities and brain damage.
Pfizer has insisted its records show none of the deaths was linked to Trovan or substandard treatment, noting that the study showed a better survival rate for the patients on Trovan than those on the standard drug, and that mental damage and other serious disabilities are known aftereffects of meningitis.
Authorities in Kano state have blamed the Pfizer affair for widespread suspicion of government public health policies.Read on.
Nigerian judge authorizes court summons on Pfizer ex-CEO -- Courant.com