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Pfizer faces charges in child deaths

By TIMES WIRES
Published May 30, 2007


NIGERIA

Officials in Nigeria have brought criminal charges against pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. for the company's alleged role in the deaths of children who received an unapproved drug during a meningitis epidemic. Authorities in Kano, the country's largest state, filed eight charges this month related to the 1996 clinical trial, including counts of criminal conspiracy and voluntarily causing grievous harm. They also filed a civil lawsuit seeking more than $2-billion in damages and restitution from Pfizer, the world's largest drug company. The government alleges that Pfizer researchers selected 200 children and infants from crowds at a makeshift epidemic camp in Kano and gave about half of the group an untested antibiotic called Trovan. Researchers gave the other children what the lawsuit describes as a dangerously low dose of a comparison drug made by Hoffman-Laroche. Nigerian officials say Pfizer's actions resulted in the deaths of an unspecified number of children and left others deaf, paralyzed, blind or brain-damaged. In a written statement, Pfizer said the company believes it did nothing wrong and emphasized that children with meningitis have a high fatality rate.

LEBANON

Army, militants renew clashes

The army clashed with al-Qaida-linked Islamic fighters in a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli on Tuesday, breaking a weeklong truce. Lebanon's government said it's determined to defeat the militants but remains willing to give mediation a chance. Lebanese army artillery pounded positions on the northern edge of the Nahr el-Bared camp , apparently trying to prevent any militants from fleeing, reporters at the scene said. One rocket apparently fired from the Fatah Islam militants started a fire on the edge of the camp.

MEXICO

Court will review abortion law

Mexico's Supreme Court said Tuesday it will hear a legal challenge to a landmark Mexico City abortion law while the capital's mayor promised hospitals would carry on performing abortions until judges ruled on the case. The law allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy was approved last month by the leftist-dominated Mexico City assembly.

JAPAN

Second suicide reported in scam

An executive allegedly involved in a bid-rigging scam that has been linked to the suicide of Japan's agriculture minister leaped to his death Tuesday, officials said. Shinichi Yamazaki, 76, jumped from his condominium south of Tokyo, according to Masamichi Ito, a police official. His suicide came a day after Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka hanged himself in his Tokyo apartment, hours before Parliament was to question him.

Elsewhere

South Korea: South Korea pressed communist North Korea to redouble its reconciliation efforts Tuesday, as the estranged neighbors opened talks amid rifts over the North's nuclear program and the South's delayed rice shipments.

Morocco: Moroccans unable to access the video-sharing Web site YouTube since last week expressed fears Tuesday that the government had stepped up its campaign to restrict independent media.