A Paris court found Servier guilty of “aggravated fraud” and “involuntary manslaughter” over its Mediator diabetes and weight-loss pill on Monday. Hundreds of people have died as a result of the drug, which is the biggest medical controversy in French history.
Servier was fined €2.7 million by the judge, and it was ordered to pay hundreds of millions more in damages to the plaintiffs. Hundreds of millions of euros in damages have been paid for aggravated deception, manslaughter, and other wrongdoings. Separate from this decision, Servier has sent 3,884 refund packages totaling €199.6 million to customers as of March 1st, with €177.6 already paid out. Jean-Philippe Seta was granted a four-year suspended prison term in the same decision.
Seta was Jacques Servier’s former right-hand man, who was the focus of initial proceedings but died in 2014. The court also fined France’s drug agency, €303,000 for failing to fulfil its mandate of protecting customers.
Accusations that Servier intentionally misled customers have been refuted time and time again. Servier did not identify a major risk until 2009, according to the company’s legal counsel. The first warnings about the drug’s toxicity emerged in the 1990s, when studies linked it to lesions on patients’ heart valves (valve disease) and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a rare but lethal condition.
In these cases, more than 6,500 plaintiffs pursued justice, and more than 400 attorneys served on the case. One issue dominated the 517-hour trial, which lasted from September 2019 to July 2020: how could Mediator have been prescribed for nearly three decades amid repeated warnings about its dangers?
The prosecution, headed by Aude Le Guilcher, tried to demonstrate that the pharmaceutical giant suppressed the anorectic properties and harmful side effects of these drugs, which were used by 5 million people before they were taken off the market in 2009. Le Guilcher urged the court to recover the public’s confidence by holding the parties responsible for placing their financial interests ahead of the public’s.