Big Pharma once more exposed itself as an industry filled by socio-paths who will overlook unnecessary deaths if they make sufficient profit and yet escape the full consequences of their criminal behaviour.
A French court has fined, Servier, one of the country’s biggest pharmaceutical firms €2.7m (£2.3m) after finding it guilty of deception and manslaughter over a pill linked to the deaths of up to 2,000 people and thousands more left with debilitating cardiovascular problems. Its former executive Jean-Philippe Seta was sentenced to a suspended jail sentence of four years. Magistrates accused Servier of having “knowingly concealed the medication’s true characteristics” from the 1970s and hidden medical studies unfavourable to the product, perpetrating a long-term fraud.
The French medicines agency, accused of failing to act quickly enough on warnings about the drug, was fined €303,000. The scandal, forced the resignation of the head of France’s public health agency and sparked outrage about the lobbying power of French pharmaceutical companies.
Servier is accused of covering up fatal side-effects of the widely prescribed drug Mediator, an amphetamine derivative licensed as a diabetes treatment, but was widely prescribed as an appetite suppressant to help people lose weight.
“Despite knowing of the risks incurred for many years, … they [Servier] never took the necessary measures and thus were guilty of deceit,” said the president of the criminal court, Sylvie Daunis.
As many as 5 million people took the drug between 1976 and November 2009 when it was withdrawn in France, long after it was banned in Spain and Italy. It was never authourised in the UK or US.