With the number of Actos lawsuits against Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical Company piling up, a French company has also been taken to court over accusations about the safety of its own diabetes drug.
According to Reuters, French drugmaker Servier and its founder went to trial on Monday, May 14, in Nanterre, France. The company has reportedly been accused of misleading authorities and patients about a diabetes drug prescribed for weight loss that officials have blamed for hundreds of deaths.
The drug, called Mediator, was often prescribed as a means to help people lose weight, according to the news provider. However, the licensed diabetes treatment is now suspected of causing heart valve disorders and was pulled from the market in France, Spain, Italy and the U.S.
Similar to the Actos lawsuits filed against Takeda, the plaintiffs in the Mediator case claim Servier purposely hid the dangers of the medication from doctors despite knowing of the potential risks since the 1990s, according to Reuters.
State health inspectors have reportedly determined that the drug should have been taken off the market in France a decade earlier, when such action was taken by Spain, Italy and the U.S., the news source said. As a result, plaintiffs are seeking interest and damages of $129,000 a piece.
"Servier let people use a toxic product for years. There is no debate about it," an attorney for one of the plaintiffs in the case, told the media outlet.
Statistics cited by Reuters indicate Mediator was sold to approximately 5 million people in France between 1976 and November 2009. France's health ministry estimates that at least 500 people died of heart valve issues due to exposure to benfluorex, the active ingredient in Mediator. However, Reuters notes that other extrapolated estimates show that figure to be closer to 2,000.
The case against Mediator is similar to that against Actos, a diabetes drug that has also been suspended in France and subjected to significant scrutiny. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency have called for increased warnings to be placed on the drug's label following studies pointing to a bladder cancer link. Patients suing Takeda claim they never would have taken Actos if they had been aware of these potentially life-threatening side effects.