Mediator drug trial begins in France

Servier laboratory accused of covering up the dangerous side effects of slimming drug blamed for hundreds of deaths

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The long-awaited trial related one of France’s biggest pharmaceutical scandals has opened in Paris.

In 2016, Connexion spoke to the French doctor who blew the whistle on the Mediator drug scandal. Dr Irène Frachon's efforts to alert authorities to the drug's potential dangers were made into a film that was screened at Cannes that year.

Some 2,600 plaintiffs are suing Servier laboratories as well as drug regulator the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament (ANSM) and 12 other people over the slimming drug Mediator, which has been blamed for the deaths of between 500 and 2,000 people - figures the laboratory has denied.

Thousands more who have taken the drug now claim to live with debilitating health problems.

Servier is accused of covering up the deadly side-effects of the Mediator drug. ANSM is accused of negligence and not acting to prevent the deaths.

The drug - an amphetamine derivative - was prescribed to 5million people in France between 1976 and 2009 before it was recalled.

It was prescribed to overweight people with Type 2 diabetes to help them lose weight - but it was also given to otherwise healthy women as an appetite suppressant.

It is suspected of causing heart and pulmonary failure. The drug was never authorised in Britain, while other countries, including Spain and Italy, refused to licence it in the early 2000s.

To date, Servier has paid out almost €132m in compensation.

This trial will seek to establish why the drug was on the market for so long in France.

Lawyers argue that Servier laboratory deliberately misled patients. The drugmaker has been accused of making at least €1bn from the drug, while knowing of its dangers. In a 677-page indictment file, magistrates said Servier, “knowingly concealed the medication’s true characteristics” and hid medical studies unfavourable to the product, establishing a long-term fraud.

The trial is expected to last until April 30, 2020.

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