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29 Mar, 2021 11:09

French-based international pharmaceutical company Servier convicted over deadly weight loss drug

French-based international pharmaceutical company Servier convicted over deadly weight loss drug

International pharma giant Servier has been convicted in France of aggravated fraud and involuntary manslaughter after thousands took the company to court over the effects of a drug that was sold as weight loss medication.

The court case was held from September 2019 to July 2020, taking up five courtrooms, with 12 people and 11 entities, Servier, nine of its subsidiaries, as well as France’s medicines agency (ANSM), put on trial. The inquiry required around 400 lawyers and featured 6,500 plaintiffs, in what was described as one of the biggest health scandals in French history.

The trial focused on a drug called Mediator, which allegedly is behind hundreds of deaths, with individuals accusing the company of ignoring the risks of the medicine and allowing it to be used for weight loss.

Sylvie Daunis, one of the magistrates presiding over the case, accused the company of having “undermined confidence in the health system,” finding the company guilty of aggravated fraud and involuntary manslaughter.

Servier has repeatedly denied that it knew about the risks posed by the use of Mediator and claims it didn’t sign off on its use as a weight loss drug, citing how it was designed to be diabetes medicine.

ANSM was accused of colluding in attempts to cover up the effects that the drug had on individuals who took it, allowing it to remain on sale.

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Handing down the verdict, the judges fined the company €2.7 million ($3.2 million) and issued a fine of €303,000 to ANSM. Servier’s former deputy boss, Jean Philippe Seta, was given a four-year suspended sentence.

The drug was removed from circulation in 2009, a decade after it was first linked to reports of fatalities, with the French health minister stating that at least 500 people died from heart problems due to a key ingredient in Mediator, suggesting the total number could be as many as 2,000.

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