KILLER slimming pill Mediator cost the Caisse Nationale d'Assurance-Maladie (Cnam) €879 million in reimbursements over the 33 years that it was being prescribed.
The total cost of the now-banned drug is €1.2 billion once Cnam adds in its commitment to paying an extra €315m for continuing treatment of affected patients.
However, no accounting has been done for the extra costs of arrêts de travail sick days or invalidity. Reimbursements by mutuelles have also been excluded, although these will have been around €200m-€300m, making a total of €1.5bn.
Mediator has been implicated in the deaths of up to 2,000 people.
Figures obtained by newspaper Le Figaro showed that more than 145 million boxes of the now-banned drug, which was first commercialised as a treatment for diabetes, were sold. It was selling seven million boxes a year at its peak and was being used by 300,000 people in France when it was withdrawn from the market in 2009.
Studies had shown over several years that its main component, benfluorex, could weaken heart valves and cause pulmonary arterial hypertension. It was originally developed to help diabetics combat insulin resistance.
Pharmaceutical company Servier, the manufacturer, faces a slew of legal action from patients and relatives alleging involuntary manslaughter, while the Cnam has accused the company of fraud and making misleading claims. A recent study by newspaper Les Echos showed the company had €2bn in reserves and no debts.
Several former health ministers could also be implicated in the cases as the reimbursement for Mediator was never reduced, despite scientific warnings on its effects. President Sarkozy has also been linked to Servier as he was the lawyer for owner, Jacques Servier, and awarded him the Légion d’Honneur in 2008.
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