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France, scandal over the killer anti-hunger drug


 Jacques Servier  

It's not just a health care scandal. The alarm on Mediator in France, the drug anti-hunger that would have killed a number of patients still difficult to estimate, becomes a political "affaire", questioning former ministers and revealing alleged links between President Sarkozy and the Servier laboratories, which produced the offending drug. Sold in France since 1975, prescribed to 5 million patients, Mediator was first reserved for diabetes therapy, then administered against overweight, before being banned in November 2009. But the alarm was sounded only a few weeks ago, when the Agency for Health Products (Afssaps) revealed that in 33 years more than 500 patients have died from the perverse effects of the drug, especially cardiovascular ones. The death toll from the killer drug then rose to 2,000. The scandal explodes. President Sarkozy has called for "total transparency" on the matter, while the new Minister of Health, Xavier Bertrand, admitting the serious flaws in the drug surveillance system in the square, announces a commission of inquiry. A toll-free information number is opened, while the controversy is growing. France is the only European country to have kept Mediator on the market for this long. Spain withdrew it in March 2003, followed a few months later by Italy. According to Le Figaro, however, the French authorities had been warned since 1998 of the dangers of the drug. At Italy's request, the Ombudsman had in fact been the subject of a European investigation. That October 1999 report, signed by doctors Giuseppe Pimpinella and Renato Bertini, who obtained Le Figaro, warned of the "toxic effects" of benfluorex, the active ingredient of the drug, a chemical agent of the amphetamine family. But the Mediator remained on the French market. According to revelations published by another newspaper, Liberation, this decision was strongly influenced by the role of the producer Servier, the second French pharmaceutical company after Sanofi-Aventis. In a "confidential fax" dated March 22, 1996, it emerges that the company allegedly attempted to "silence" doctors who were too critical of Isomeride, another drug produced by

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Fedaiisf Federazione delle Associazioni Italiane degli Informatori Scientifici del Farmaco e del Parafarmaco