March 29, 2021: French pharmaceutical giant, Servier is facing legal proceedings after it was it emerged that Mediator, their weight loss pill was linked to deaths and heart complications in patients.
The drug was in the market was 33 years, before being pulled in 2009, nearly a decade after initial concerns were raised. This led to allegations that the company knew about and deliberately ignored the risks associated with the drug.
Initial estimates suggest about 500 people may have lost their lives because of the drug, however the actual number may be as high as 2100.
Now, Servier is facing a total of 6500 different compensation claims from plaintiffs, with collective claims totalling up to 1.2Billion Euros. This, in addition to criminal charges of up to 10million Euros if a deliberate “cover up” is proven. While some previously settled cases have already seen payments of 200million Euros.
The court has tried multiple individuals and institutions who were implicated in the case. The second in command at Servier, Jean-Philippe Seta. admitted that Servier may have “made mistakes”, alluding to the fact that some executives were aware of the the risks it posed.
The drug which was intended for diabetic patients, was increasingly marketed to and prescribed for overweight individuals wanting to lose weight. The devastating effects however, were evident during the trial when some exhausted plaintiffs delivered testimonies sitting down.
Irene Franchon, the whistleblower instrumental in having the drug finally pulled, questioned the role of the French authority ANSM, responsible for authorizing use of pharmaceuticals. Defendants include a former senator and several consultants who prescribed the drug while on Servier’s payroll.
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