French Court Fines Servier for Damages Caused by Weight-Loss Drug

Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

French drugmaker Servier was found guilty of manslaughter and deceptive marketing practice for its weight-loss pill Mediator. The Paris-based company was fined $3.12 million following a lawsuit that took years to wind its way through the court system.

According to a Reuters report, at least 500 people in France died from heart valve problems due to exposure to the active ingredient in Mediator, a weight-loss drug that was withdrawn from the market in 2009. The active ingredient in Mediator was a chemical known as Benfluorex. Mediator was initially used to treat diabetes patients. It was prescribed as an appetite suppressant to help patients lose weight in order to better control their diabetes.

Since the company withdrew Mediator from the market, Servier has defended itself against allegations that it attempted to conceal any data regarding safety concerns. The drug had been on the market for more than 33 years. Over the years, Mediator has been in the crosshairs of the French government.

In 2011, a government investigative agency, the Inspection Generale des Affaires Sociales, said in a report that Servier depicted benfluorex as a diabetes treatment, when in reality it was a “potent” appetite suppressant closely related to fenfluramine, a component of the diet-drug combination fen-phen. Fenfluramine was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1997 after it was linked to heart-valve damage.

The French ruling is only the latest for Servier and Mediator. In 2015, the French courts ruled against Servier in another lawsuit. The courts said the company was responsible for leaving lots of the drug available on the market even after the company pulled the drug in 2009. The courts also said the company was guilty for not informing the public of the risks associated with Mediator.

In its report this morning, Reuters said Servier has acknowledged in the past that its drug has had “serious consequences” for some patients and had already compensated some people over the damage caused by the medication. According to reports, there have been some 2,000 deaths related to Mediator. While Servier has settled some lawsuits, Reuters said the company said it would fight inaccuracies and false statements.

In addition to Servier, the French courts also leveled a 303,000 euros fine against France's drug regulator ANSM, Reuters reported.

Mediator is also banned for sale in the United States, Spain and Italy.

Servier has not issued a comment on the latest court ruling.

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