Servier, founder face trial on Mediator charges

France's Mediator scandal has hit the courtroom. The drug's maker, Servier, and its founder are on trial in Nanterre, accused of misleading patients and regulators about the diabetes drug, often prescribed for weight loss. The French health ministry says Mediator caused at least 500 deaths.

As Reuters reports, civil plaintiffs have joined the criminal case now on trial, saying Servier deceived doctors about the drug's links to heart-valve disorders. Mediator was withdrawn on safety concerns in Spain, Italy and the U.S. almost a decade before French regulators pulled it. "Servier let people use a toxic product for years," a plaintiff's lawyer told the news service. "There is no debate about it."

The defendants deny the allegations, and they're trying to stop the Nanterre trial because they're facing another in Paris. That case, however, will follow an investigation into manslaughter and corruption allegations. Founder Jacques Servier, 90, and four other executives face sentences of up to four years, plus fines, while the company and its Biopharma subsidiary face fines.

France is closely watching the Servier case; after the Mediator safety problems emerged, the country's drug regulator came under fire for dragging its feet on withdrawing the drug, and its top official resigned. Since then, the government launched an investigation of the agency and potential ties to Servier. The agency faces even more scrutiny now, after faulty breast implants touched off another scandal.

- read the Reuters news