A French court on Monday found pharma giant Servier guilty of “aggravated fraud” and “involuntary manslaughter” over a diabetes and weight loss pill blamed for hundreds of deaths in one of the country’s worst health scandals.
The drug Mediator was on the market for 33 years and used by about five million people before being pulled in 2009 over fears it could cause serious heart problems — more than a decade after such concerns had first been raised.
Servier’s former deputy boss was sentenced to a suspended jail sentence of four years, and the court fined the company 2.7 million euros ($3.2 million).
France’s medicines agency was fined 303,000 euros for its role in the scandal.
A total of 12 people and 11 legal entities — Servier, nine subsidiaries and France’s medicine watchdog — were tried in late 2019 and early 2020 over their alleged role in a scandal that contributed to widespread distrust of the pharmaceutical industry in France.
Initially intended for overweight people with diabetes, Mediator was widely prescribed to healthy individuals as an appetite suppressant.
Many of the victims who testified in court about the impact of the drug on their lives were women. Exhausted and out of breath, they recounted their stories sitting down.
The Mediator affair was the subject of the 2016 French film “150 Milligrams”, about the work of lung specialist Irene Frachon, who was instrumental in bringing the alleged wrongdoing to light.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)