France – Mediator scandal: Servier laboratories convicted of aggravated deception and manslaughter

Helene Laurent

On Monday 29 March, more than ten years after the opening of a criminal investigation and eighteen months after the start of an “out of the ordinary” trial, the Paris Criminal Court found Servier Laboratories guilty of “aggravated deception” and “manslaughter and involuntary injury” in the Mediator case. Servier laboratories marketed Mediator for years, an anti-diabetic drug, prescribed as an appetite suppressant, which caused serious damage to heart valves (valvulopathy) and pulmonary arterial hypertension, a rare and fatal condition. The first warnings about the drug’s toxicity were given in the 1990s. Mediator is accused of having caused the death of 1,500 to 2,100 people, not counting the victims who are still suffering the consequences of its side effects.

The pharmaceutical group has been convicted by the Paris Criminal Court to pay a fine of €2.718 million and to compensate the victims to the tune of approximately €180 million according to the lawyers’ initial calculations. Acquitted of the fraud charges, this trial could have cost the pharmaceutical group more. For some victims, the court’s decision is a bit disappointing, particularly with regard to the amounts of damages and fines to be paid by the Servier laboratories.

Jean-Philippe Seta, the group’s former number two and right-hand man to the group’s founder Jacques Servier, who died in 2014, has been given a four-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of €90,600.

The court also found the French drug agency (ANSM, formerly Afssaps) guilty of manslaughter and unintentional injury, considering that it had seriously failed in its mission of health police, for having delayed the suspension of Mediator. The ASNM has been fined €303,000.

The parties to the trial and the public prosecutor have 10 days from the decision to appeal. The health authority has already indicated that it will not appeal.

 

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