French pharma firm guilty over Mediator drug

A French pharmaceutical company has been found guilty of aggravated deceit and involuntary manslaughter in a France court.

Drug maker Servier had denied any knowledge of the drug Mediator’s side effects but a court on Monday issued it with a fine of Euros 2.7m.

Servier Laboratories was, however, cleared of its charges for fraud in a case that grew into France’s biggest modern health scandals.

The drug Mediator was developed for use in overweight diabetics and was on the market for 33 years.

It was eventually withdrawn in 2009 over concerns it could cause serious heart problems.

Hundreds of people are believed to have died as a result of the drug.

Around five million people were prescribed the medicine over the course of three decades, despite various warnings over its side effects.

The company was tried for charges including manslaughter, involuntary injury, fraud, and influence trading. Investigating magistrates concluded that Servier covered up the drug’s effects on patients.

Sylvie Daunis, who presided over the ruling at a Paris court, said the company has “undermined confidence in the health system.”

“Despite the knowledge they had of the risks incurred for many years, (…) they never took the necessary measures and thus deceived” consumers of Mediator, she added.

Prosecutors had asked for the company to be fined nearly €15 million and for the only Servier executive accused of involvement still alive today, Dr. Jean-Philippe Seta, to be sentenced to three years in jail and to pay a fine of €278,000.

Seta was sentenced to a four-year suspended prison term and fined €90,600.

France’s national medicines agency (ANSM) was also handed a €303,000 fine for colluding to mask the drug’s danger.

Servier had asked for an acquittal, arguing that it wasn’t aware of the risks associated with Mediator before 2009 and that it never pretended it was a diet pill.