Servier Labs Founder Faces Possible Manslaughter Charges

Servier Labs Founder Faces Possible Manslaughter Charges

December 13th, 2012 // 2:07 pm @

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In a rare move not seen in the pharmaceutical industry, Jacques Servier, who founded Servier Laboratories, was formally placed under investigation on suspicion of manslaughter in connection with his role in the scandal over the Mediator diabetes drug, whic has been blamed for at least 500 deaths in France, Reutersreports.

The 90-year-old Service was ordered to post bail of nearly $100,000 and six Servier subsidiaries were also placed under investigation and ordered to pay a total of $3.1 million. This step can, but does not necessarily mean he will go to trial, Reuters notes. A related trial to determine whether Servier, who was also president, misled patients and authorities about the drug was delayed in May and is still pending. He has denied those accusations.

As noted in a previous story, the probe focuses on suspicion of dishonest practices, deception over drug quality and falsely obtaining authorization to sell Mediator, which was often prescribed as an appetite suppressant for diabetics. Five companies under the Servier corporate umbrella are also under investigation. Servier is France’s second-largest drugmaker.

The pill was linked to heart-valve damage and government investigators contended the risks were deliberately concealed. As many as 5 million people took the pill between 1976 and November 2009, when it was withdrawn in France, but that was several years after it was yanked in Spain and Italy. French health inspectors say Mediator should have been withdrawn a decade earlier.

The French health ministry says at least 500 people died of heart-valve trouble in France, although other estimates have placed the death toll closer to 2,000. The active ingredient, benfluorex, is closely related to fenfluramine, one half of the infamous fen-phen weight-loss cocktail. Fenfluramine was withdrawn from the US market in 1997 after being linked to heart-valve damage.


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