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French drugmaker Servier ordered to pay $471 million for Mediator scandal

PARIS — Drugmaker Servier must pay more than 430 million euros ($471 million) in connection with weight-loss pill Mediator, a French court ruled on Wednesday, saying the company was guilty of fraud and other charges because it knew the drug was potentially harmful when selling it.

The Paris court of appeals ordered the unlisted French pharmaceutical group to reimburse 415.6 million euros to social security services. The company was also ordered to pay criminal fines of close to 9 million euros, 1 million euros in damages and 5 million in legal costs.

Former Servier Chief Executive Jean-Philippe Seta received a four-year suspended prison sentence – one year of which has to be served through house arrest – and a fine of close to 90,000 euros.

“Despite the severity of the verdict, the group is able to cope with this disappointing decision,” the company said in a statement. It plans to appeal to the Court of Cassation, France’s top court.

At least 500 people died of heart valve problems in one of France’s worst health scandals because of exposure to the active ingredient in Mediator, which was widely prescribed as an appetite suppressant. 

The court found the company concealed the risk of harm and heart problems from patients and doctors and ruled the initial 1974 approval and its subsequent renewals until 2007 had been obtained illegally.

The fines imposed Wednesday are on top of compensation the company has already paid victims.

The ruling, which came after both the company and some victims of the faulty drug had lodged an appeal, partially overruled a verdict by a lower court from 2021.

France pulled the drug from the market in 2009, around a decade after Spain, Italy and the United States halted sales. — Reuters

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