French court slaps hefty fines for deceit against pharmaceutical giant and regulator
Servier, the manufacturer of diabetes and weight loss pill, Mediator, was held guilty in a multi-decade medical scandal
A Paris court has levied a hefty fine on the pharmaceutical giant Servier in France's biggest ever medical scandal that spread across many decades and caused hundreds of deaths.
After a trial that lasted for over 517 hours from September 2019 to July 2020, a Paris court held Servier guilty of "aggravated fraud" and "involuntary manslaughter" over its diabetes and weight loss pill, Mediator.
The court fined Servier €2.7 million and ordered the pharmaceutical giant to pay hundreds of millions more in damages that will be shared out by plaintiffs, the court levied a fine of €303,000 against France's drug regulator, l'agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des prollduits de santé (ANSM), for failing its mandate to protect consumers.
The Court also pronounced a four-year suspended sentence to Jean-Philippe Seta, the former right-hand man of Servier's CEO Jacques Servier, who was subject to initial proceedings but died in 2014.
The Court was inundated with more than 6,500 petitions seeking justice. Over 400 lawyers worked on the case in which the central questions was how could Mediator have been prescribed for well over three decades, despite repeated alerts regarding it being a dangerous medicine? The pill was used by over 5 million persons until it was pulled out of the market in 2009.
The prosecution successfully managed to establish before the Court that Servier had knowingly concealed the anorectic properties and dangerous side effects of these pills.
Servier sought to deny the allegations that it knowingly deceived consumers. Its counsel asserted that Servier did not identify any significant risk before 2009.
The first alerts on the toxicity of the drug emerged in the 1990s when reports connected it to lesions on patients' heart valves (valve disease), as well as pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), which is a rare and fatal pathology.
Damages for aggravated deception, manslaughter, and other and harms total hundreds of millions of euros. Servier had as of 1 March 2021 had sent 3,884 compensation offers totaling €199.6 million to consumers, €177.6 of which has already been paid out.
This, however, will have no impact on the Court order for the pharmaceutical giant to cough up €2.7 million as penalty.