Mediator: The French diet drug blamed for 2,000 deaths

A trial opened Monday to determine whether the makers of weight-loss pill Mediator deliberately misled patients over the drug’s potentially fatal side effects.

First launched in 1976, Mediator was introduced to treat excess weight in type-2 diabetes patients, but was also widely prescribed as a weight-loss aide for otherwise healthy patients.

The drug’s active substance, benfluorex, is an amphetamine derivative, which suppresses appetite.

But from as early as 1997, concerns were raised about its potential side effects, with Mediator use linked to heart valve damage and pulmonary arterial hypertension. However, it was not taken off the market in France until 2009.

During its 33 years on sale, an estimated five million people were exposed to the drug, with up to 2,000 deaths believed to have been linked to its use.

Monday’s trial sees the drug's French maker, Servier, stand accused of knowingly concealing the drug’s side effects, which the company denies.

The French drug watchdog ANSM is also on trial, accused of failing to properly regulate the drug and being too slow to act once after concerns were raised.