slim French women may have paid for their figures with their lives as 'miracle'
diet drug is 'linked to deaths of thousands'
people had been using the potential killer drug for 30 years
slimming pill may have killed thousands of people in France and could become
the worst health scandal in the nation's history. The drug Mediator was
prescribed to up five million people, originally to overweight diabetes
sufferers, from its launch in 1979 until it was banned last year. And for
30 years it was also used as an appetite-suppressing drug by thousands of
healthy men and women, with its cost even subsidised by the French healthcare
system. But a forthcoming official report is now warning that it may be
linked to the deaths of up to 2,000 people and caused heart problems in
government scientists claim the active ingredient in Mediator, called benflourex,
could have caused thickening of the heart valves, fatigue, breathlessness
- and had no effect at all on weight loss. Politicians and successive health
ministers are now under pressure to answer why they ignored repeated warning
from experts that the drug could be highly dangerous.
French press investigations has alleged there was a campaign of intimidation
and disinformation by Servier, France's second largest drugs company, to
keep their highly lucrative product on the market. French
daily Liberation said anonymous threats were sent to researchers who criticised
another drug called Isomeride, similar to Mediator, which was on sale in
Nicolas Sarkozy himself once worked for the company as a lawyer before going
into politics. Sarkozy awarded Servier's founder Dr Jacques Servier France's
highest medal the Legion d'Honneur just a year before his drug was taken
off the market.
was only banned after a study in April 2009 by lung specialist Dr Irene
Frachon, which linked it to scores of patients with otherwise unexplained
heart valve problems.
study into the drug leaked to Le Figaro newspaper has now put the possible
death toll at between 1,000 and 2,000 people. Mediator was prescribed to
up to 5 million people since 1979 before being banned last year.
Health Minister Xavier Bertrand has now vowed to launch an investigation
into why his predecessors over the past 30 years could have had lethal side
effects. Even he as health minister in 2006 agreed to maintain the 65 per
cent refund to patients who bought the drug.
Aubry and Bernard Kouchner, both former socialist health ministers, say
they do not remember warnings over Mediator. Mr Bertrand has now announced:
'Our message to all those who took Mediator is that they must see a doctor
- particularly those who took it for three months over the past four years.'
said lawyers nationwide were now planning to sue Servier for criminal negligence
and involuntary murder in a huge medical 'class action' case. President
Sarkozy said last week: 'The public deserves no less than total transparency
in this matter.'