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Servier on trial for weight-loss pill that led to 2,000 deaths

Published on 23/09/19 at 11:14am

A trial on one of France’s largest ever healthcare scandals has begun after a weight loss pill was believed to have killed up to 2,000 people, leaving many more injured for life.

Pharmaceutical giant Servier is one of France’s biggest and most powerful privately-owned companies and has been accused of covering up the killer side-effects of a widely prescribed drug called Mediator.

Mediator was an amphetamine derivative marketed to overweight diabetics and was also often prescribed to healthy women as an appetite suppressant. As many as 5 million people were given the drug between 1976 and 2009 in spite of the fact that it was suspected of causing heart and pulmonary failure.

The health ministry found at least 500 people died of heart valve trouble in France because of exposure to Mediator’s active ingredients, but other estimates by doctors put the figure closer to 2,000. Additionally thousands more live with debilitating health problems.

In the 677-page French indictment, magistrates wrote that Servier “knowingly concealed the medication’s true characteristics” hiding unfavourable medical studies which amounts to long-term fraud.

The trial that begins today has 21 defendants and over 2,600 plaintiffs and is set to last at least 6 months, making it one of the longest courses in Paris for decades.

The French drug regulator, the Agence National de Sécurité du Médicament, is also on trial and Is accused of not taking enough steps to check and control the drug as well as being far too slow to respond.

It has taken over 10 years for the case to come to court and a laywer for 250 plaintiffs, said: “The fact that a trial is ultimately taking place is, itself, a victory for the victims.” The trial itself will attempt to seek to establish why the drug was on the market for so long in France with drug maker Servier being accused of making at least €1 billion.

Nik Kiran

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