Pfizer and Nigerian authorities want Trovan compensation claimants to provide DNA samples to confirm their identity, according to former Nigerian Supreme court justice Abubakar Wali.
Speaking on Sunday, Justice Wali told This Day that: “All the victims must undergo DNA tests to ensure that genuine victims benefit from the settlement,” adding that once correctly identified claimants will be compensated promptly.
On July 30, after a long legal battle, Pfizer signed an out of court settlement and agreed to pay $30m (€20m) to the families of children injured in a controversial 1996 trial of its candidate meningitis treatment Trovan (trovafloxacin) in Kano, Nigeria.
Under the settlement, the US drugmaker also said it will also pay $30m for state health projects, as well as a further $15m to cover legal costs.
However, On October 5, the Daily Trust reported that medical records of those who participated in the trial could not be found by either the Kano State Ministry of Health or the Infectious Diseases Hospital where it was carried out, prompting the requirement for DNA tests.
Pfizer did not respond to in-PharmaTechnologist’s questions about the need for the tests, or if it had DNA records of patients who participated in the trial.
In a statement released late last month when DNA testing was first proposed, independent Nigerian health watchdog Mens Sana said it supported it as one of the methods required to prevent false claimants from seeking compensation.
The organisation said: “We endorse the insistence of the Pfizer/Kano State Health Care Meningitis Trust Fund headed by Justice Wali, that DNA testing will be one of the ways of verifying the true identity of beneficiaries of the fund.
“This is in line with our earlier press statement in which we counselled that all claims and claimants must be subjected to a very transparent procedure to ensure that the healthcare funds don’t end up in the wrong pockets.”
Mens Sana also said that the “outcry” against the DNA testing plan by Trovan Victims Forum leader Alhaji Maisikeli was “rather suspect.”
The group suggested that: “If he truly has the interest of the patients at heart he would support every process aimed at ensuring that the real patients get the money.”
For Pfizer, which has already faced considerable criticism for the Trovan case, the latest twist in the saga and the publicity it generates is a further disappointment, particularly as it still faces the prospect of legal action in the US from Nigerian families involved in the trial.