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February 2, 2009 - Nigerian Suit Against Pfizer Set to Advance in US Court

A lawsuit by Nigerian families who say U.S. drugmaker Pfizer used their children in an illegal test of an experimental antibiotic can proceed, a court says.

Reversing an earlier court finding that the suit must be heard in Nigeria, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York ruled Friday that the suits can now go forward in the U.S. courts. Legal experts say the ruling could set a precedent affecting other American companies accused of wrongdoing overseas, The Washington Post reported.

The families' suit claims say Pfizer tested an experimental drug known as Trovan in Nigeria by administering it to perilously ill children without their knowledge. The plaintiffs contend 11 children died and others developed brain damage and crippling arthritis during the 1996 clinical trial, the Post said.

"This is a home run for us," said plaintiffs' attorney. "The judges are making a statement. They are telling companies, 'If you go overseas, justice will come back to the United States.'"

The appellate court ruling "is not a determination on their merits," Pfizer officials said in a statement. "Indeed, the strong dissent by one of the judges may be grounds for further appellate proceedings."

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