After 10 Months, 400 Lawyers, Drugmaker Found Guilty

Servier Laboratories was accused of letting diabetes drug Mediator be sold as diet drug
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2021 12:06 PM CDT
Mammoth Trial in France Ends With Drugmaker Found Guilty
In this May 21, 2013, file photo, Jacques Servier, founder of Servier Laboratories, sits during the opening of the trial regarding Mediator, a diabetes drug linked to hundreds of deaths, at Nanterre's courthouse, outside Paris.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

A $3.2 million fine has been issued in a "judicial marathon" of a case centered around a French pharmaceutical company, but that $3.2 million is just the start, reports the AP. Servier Laboratories was accused of allowing the diabetes drug Mediator to be sold as a diet pill for three decades—with deadly results. The country's health ministry said the drug's active ingredient causes heart valve issues that have killed at least 500 people in France, per Reuters; the drug was last sold there in 2009. Servier claimed to be unaware of the drug's risks. Judge Sylvie Daunis disagreed, reports the BBC: "Although they knew about the risks for many years ... they never took the necessary measures." The company was on Monday found guilty of manslaughter, involuntary wounding, and aggravated deception, but it was acquitted of fraud.

The company will also have to pay hundreds of millions in damages. The AP recounts the massive nature of the 10-month trial, which involved almost 400 lawyers and 6,500-plus plaintiffs. The full verdict took almost three hours to read out loud. A 2010 study suggested the drug could have caused as many as 2,000 deaths. France 24 reports "many of the victims who testified in court about the impact of the drug on their lives were women. Exhausted and out of breath, they recounted their stories sitting down." The company yanked the drug from Switzerland, Spain, and Italy between 1997 and 2004 after those countries started asking questions. An independent investigation by French lung specialist Irene Frachon led to Servier finally stopping sales in France as well. CEO and founder Jacques Servier died in 2014; company exec Dr. Jean-Philippe Seta was also accused of involvement and received a four-year prison sentence. (More diet drug stories.)

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