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France

French authorities were warned of killer weight-loss drug

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-12-20

Mediator was designed for diabetics to help them lose weight. It was also based on the amphetamine group of drugs and has killed between 500 and 2,000 people in France, despite the authorities having been warned well in advance.

 

More than 500 people (and some say as many as 2,000) in France have died after taking a weight-loss drug designed for diabetics – despite medical authorities having been aware of the dangers for 11 years.
 
French daily Le Figaro reported on Saturday that the French Drug Agency (l’Agence du medicament) was warned about Mediator, an amphetamine-based drug widely used by non-diabetics as an appetite suppressant, in 1998.
 
The newspaper published a letter dated September 21, 1998, from three medical professors that warned the agency of potential health dangers associated with the drug, which has been sold in France since 1976.
 
The letter also pointed out the irony that while amphetamines were strictly controlled, Mediator was being quite freely prescribed.
 
Mediator, which has been linked to heart valve problems, was finally taken off the French market in 2009, well after it had been banned in Spain, Italy and the USA.
 
Despite repeated warnings, the drug, made by French company Servier, remained freely prescribed and reimbursed by the state at the maximum rate of 65%, which undoubtedly helped maintain sales.
 
Drug taken by two million people in France
 
French drug safety watchdog AFSSAPS in November estimated that up to two million people in France may have taken the drug. It said patients who had used Mediator for
more than three months should seek medical advice.
 
“Analyses by expert epidemiologists estimate that about 500 deaths could be attributable to Benfluorex [Mediator’s active ingredient]”, AFSSAPS said in a statement.
 
French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand on Monday said he believed the case showed serious shortcomings in the way drugs were marketed and sold in France.
 
“I want to know everything that happened since Mediator arrived on the market in 1976,” he told Le Figaro. “I want to know why, despite warnings and despite having a chemical structure the same as banned drugs [amphetamines], it was able to stay on the market for 33 years.”
 
According to the Figaro, the estimate of 500 deaths attributable to Mediator could be too conservative, with some experts estimating that as many as 2,000 may have died as a result of taking the drug.
 
The Figaro noted that the November 16 AFSSAPS report had failed to mention a further study that estimated the number of deaths at 2,000.

 

Date created : 2010-12-20

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