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In April 1996, during the ‘worst meningitis epidemic’ in the country, Pfizer conducted a clinical trial of its drug, Trovafloxacin (Trovan) in Kano, Northern Nigeria. Eleven years later (April/May 2007) the Kano State and Nigerian Federal governments each filed two suits (civil and criminal) against Pfizer, accusing it of conducting an illegal drug trial that led to the death of 11 children and the maiming of 189 others. The Trovafloxacin trial survivors also brought a number of legal actions against Pfizer in the United States.


C&F Porter Novelli was tasked with countering inaccurate information, set the record straight, and explain the wider implications of the actions against Pfizer. Furthermore, there was a need to engage the media and opinion leaders to promote understanding, and provide ground intelligence and win allies among opinion leaders to help in calming down the debate in Nigeria, especially Kano.


The first step we took was to develop a crisis management matrix and real-time communication alert chain to manage foreseen and unforeseen situations. Ground allies were developed by ensuring that credible and influential media and stakeholders were well briefed to maintain perspective and neutrality regardless of how sensationalised things became. Finally to set the record straight, C&F Porter Novelli:

  • Engaged the lawyers to co-ordinate and align their strategy, tactics, messages and proof points to complement and reinforce each other, and offer best value to client.
  • Targeted the international media by focusing on key news agencies in Nigeria, holding regular briefing sessions with key stakeholders, and promoting third-party advocacy.


Pfizer won the battle for media influence. Media reportage of the crisis shifted from lopsided against Pfizer to fair. Informed commentary also reflects strong understanding of the issues. The agenda, set by Pfizer, of transparent settlement has worked. The issues, which have subsequently moved onto management and disbursement of the funds, have not been able to capture the interest of the media, who see the case as resolved.