French sue pharma firm over deadly diabetes drug

AFP, Tuesday 11 Jan 2011

Patients sue pharmaceutical company for an allegedly deadly and sickening diabetes drug

Scores of alleged victims of a now-banned diabetes drug pressed charges at a Paris court on Tuesday, claiming it caused deaths or sickness in patients who took it.

The victims' association AVIM lodged complaints on behalf of 116 patients who took Mediator, a drug for overweight people with diabetes that was also widely prescribed to others as an appetite-suppressant.

The French government in November warned patients to see their doctor if they took Mediator, which health safety authorities say killed 500 people over three decades before it was banned in 2009.

The drugs company that sold Mediator, Servier, said in November that 500 deaths represented a tiny risk compared to the number of people who took the drug. But on Sunday it conceded there was a "true risk."

"We do not deny that Mediator could have posed a real risk for certain patients," company spokeswoman Lucy Vincent was quoted as saying by the Journal du Dimanche."If Mediator caused the death of three people, that is already too many."

The drug was banned in France, where millions of people took it, in 2009 after being linked to heart valve damage. It is also banned in the United States, Spain and Italy.

"I hope it will only take a few weeks for a judicial case to be launched and experts appointed" to investigate the claims, the association's lawyer Jean-Christophe Coubris told reporters outside the Paris court on Tuesday.

He said the association planned to lodge about 1,000 cases in all.

The consumers' association UFC-Que Choisir also said it was lodging a judicial complaint over the affair.

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