top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
arrow down

French pharma firm found guilty over diet pill linked to 2,000 deaths

Servier was found guilty of manslaughter and deception after continuing sales of the lethal Mediator drug for 33 years

French pharmaceutical laboratory Servier has been found guilty of manslaughter and deception by French courts over a weight loss drug it produced which has been linked to the deaths of up to 2,000 people.

Servier was fined €2.7 million at the end of an unusually long trial which entailed 517 hours in court and was spread over 18 months due to the pandemic.

The trial involved over 6,500 plaintiffs who initiated the case against the pharmaceutical company.

It ended yesterday (March 29), with lead magistrate, Sylvie Daunis, saying: “Despite the knowledge that it had of the risks over many years [Servier] never took the measures necessary.”

Drug sold in France for over three decades 

The Mediator drug was originally sold as a treatment for Type 2 Diabetes, but was also widely prescribed as an appetite suppressant to help people lose weight.

In the 1990s concerns were raised over the possible harmful effects of the drug, which was eventually found to cause fatal heart-valve damage and high blood pressure in the blood vessels that supply the lungs.

But it was only taken off the French market in 2009, after being in circulation for 33 years, and used to treat over five million people.

The magistrate said the Mediator case was of a “considerable and unprecedented scale”, and had a significant impact in terms of “weakening confidence in the French health system”.

Laboratory to pay millions in fines

Servier was not found guilty of fraud over the sale of the drug, but was ordered to pay compensation to victims who filed damages, which could amount to €180 million according to initial calculations from lawyers.

Jean-Philippe Seta, former executive at Servier, was sentenced to a four-year suspended jail sentence and a fine of €90,600.

Jacques Servier, founder and president of Servier, died in 2014.

National medicines agency ANSM was also fined €303,000 for failing to suspend the drug sooner.

The court said that the agency had “failed in its role as the police of health and medicine” in France.

Victims witness sentencing

Dozens of victims went to court for the ruling, as did Dr Irène Frachon, the lung specialist who first alerted people to the dangers of the drug in 2009.

Dr Frachon said: “The trial has confirmed what I’ve been saying for 14 years: Mediator was a dangerous drug, Servier knew that and knowingly misled millions of consumers.”

While pleased with the overall result, she said that the sanctions given were “weak” and showed the legal framework’s inability to punish crimes on this scale.

Lisa Boussinot, whose mother died in 2004 after taking Mediator, said: “I’m satisfied that justice has been done and that there were legal sanctions, even if they could have been more significant.

“I feel recognised as a victim.”

Her lawyer, Charles Joseph-Oudin, was less satisfied. He said: “Servier have been given a fine of €2.7 million when they make €10 million per day.”

He called the fines “extremely light” compared with the profits made by the company from sales of Mediator - after the dangers had been highlighted by Dr Frachon - which he estimated to be €400 million over 14 years.

Related stories

Interview: French doctor who blew whistle on fatal slimming pill scandal

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now