United States’ pharmaceutical giant Pfizer yesterday began the conduct of DNA test to determine beneficiaries in the $75 million out of court settlement agreement it reached with Kano State government last year over the trial of Trovan, a meningitis drug in the ancient city in 1996. A total number of 200 persons participated in the drug test from March – April 1996.

Kano State government had, about 10 years after the test was conducted, dragged the American drug company to court on the claims that the trial of Trovan resulted in 11 deaths and injuries to scores of other participants.

The State government also claimed that Pfizer did not obtain all the necessary regulatory approvals before it embarked on the drug trial. But the drug manufacturer had denied this with claims that the drug performance favourably compared with any other used to treat patients during the meningitis epidemic.

The company also claimed that it obtained all the necessary regulatory approvals for the trial. But with the agreement reached with Kano State government last year, participants who can prove that they participated in the trial were to be compensated according to the extent of their injury from a $35 million set aside for compensation out of the $75 million.

Pfizer had also demanded for a DNA test to ensure that only those who genuinely participated in the trial benefitted from the compensation. The company had earlier in the year handed over the DNA bank, photographs and other documents to the Trustee of the compensation fund to aid the identification of the beneficiaries. The need for the DNA test further became evident when over 500 claims were submitted at the end of the claims period.

P.M.NEWS gathered that 22 families were tested yestreday b y Bode Laboratories of USA. In one instance, five members of the same family also were also present to establish claim on their deceased relative. PM NEWS learnt that claimants who can establish blood ties with any deceaed participant in the Trovan trial.

P.M.NEWS gthared that the DNA test is being monitored by some civil society groups. It was learnt that the board charged with the management of the board had embarked on state wide publicity to draw attention to the beginning of the DNA since last week.

The process of the DNA test was explained to the claimants before they undergo the tests

“I am happy that I came. Three of us came from our family. We are so sure that our late relative participated in the Trovan trials. It is only Allah that gives life, so we are not quarrelling with anybody. All we want is the compensation promised the families. Anyone who has a genuine claim like ours has nothing to fear. If you are sure that your claim is genuine, why would you not come?

“Those who are campaigning against DNA test are fraudulent people,” Hajiya Asabe, who claimed to be a blood relative of a deceased participant, told journalists at the venue of the trial.

On the withdrawal of the Trovan Victims’ Forum led by Garba Maisikeli from the the DNA test, Asabe said: “It is a shame that they are deceiving ordinary poor people. Alhaji Maisikeli had thought that the Pfizer compensation would be a free-for-all. Now that he sees that DNA is being used, he knows that his false claims will be exposed. And that is why he is trying to save his face by staying away.

“I swear in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, my own claim is genuine. Maisikeli can’t swear by the Holy Quran that his claim is authentic. None of the Trovan participants belonged to any club or ‘forum’ when they were being tested. Why should anyone now claim to be acting for them? Let the Board handle all cases on individual merit as they are doing. As I said, I am happy that I came for this exercise and all the other people on the queue with us were happy. “

—Oluokun Ayorinde/Abuja