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The US pharmaceutical company Pfizer is preparing to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by 30 Nigerian families who allege that the company unethically tested the antibiotic Trovan on their children during a 1996 meningitis outbreak.

The families allege that Pfizer did not obtain their informed consent for the trial, and that the company endangered their children’s lives by failing to provide a proven existing treatment to patients who did not improve after taking Trovan, and by giving control patients a weakened version of the standard therapy.

But Pfizer rejects the charges, saying the study was “well conceived, well executed and saved lives”. The company says that it obtained prior consent from both the Nigerian government and the patients’ families.

Reference: Science 293, 1742 (2001)

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