After five months of hearings, the Mediator's appeal trial ended Thursday, June 8 in Paris, after a final day of pleadings during which representatives of the Servier laboratory and its lawyers repeated that it had acted " in good faith ".
"We never wanted to deceive anyone," hammered the group's representative, Isabelle Tupinon-Mathieu, for her last words on the stand, assuring the victims of her "deepest regrets".
"I didn't understand fast enough," then lamented the group's former number two, Jean-Philippe Seta, his voice charged with emotion. “I want to repeat to the victims and their families (…) that there was never the will, the intentionality” to conceal the dangers of the Mediator, he added. The group's lawyers had previously pleaded for release, claiming that the laboratory would never have "knowingly marketed a dangerous drug in full knowledge of the facts". The decision will be made on December 20.
Marketed in 1976 as an adjunct to antidiabetic treatments, but often improperly prescribed as an appetite suppressant until it was banned in 2009, the Mediator has caused serious cardiovascular effects in thousands of patients. He is held responsible for hundreds of deaths. At first instance, in March 2021, the second French pharmaceutical company was fined 2.7 million euros.
The criminal court had found him guilty of "aggravated deception" and "manslaughter and involuntary injury", but had acquitted him of the offense of fraud and declared prescribed that of "undue obtaining of marketing authorization. market ".
Last week, the public prosecutor's office claimed against Servier the payment of nearly 200 million euros: a fine of 13.5 million euros and the "confiscation of the profit" linked to the drug, i.e. up to 182 million euros. euros according to his calculations.
François De Castro, one of Servier's lawyers, castigated a "severity (...) totally out of step with the reality of the case", accusing the prosecution of a "misunderstanding" of the latter.
On Wednesday, her colleague Nathalie Carrère said she was "shocked" by the words "of rare violence" from the public prosecutor. She had regretted a search for "sensationalism" in the use of the word "poisoning" - criminal qualification - and the designation of laboratories as "executioners".
Throughout the trial, Servier has admitted to having made "an error in assessing the risk" related to the Mediator, but denies any "concealment" and any "intentional element", necessary to characterize deception. "There has never been a conscience to expose patients to a risk", assured Wednesday Etienne Kowalski, another lawyer of the group.
According to him, in view of the scientific knowledge at the time, "the risk-benefit balance of the Mediator remained favorable until 2009, and the continuation on the market was justified". As for the precautionary principle invoked by the public prosecutor, it "has not yet known any consecration in criminal law", underlined Mr. Kowalski, believing that an offense could not be based on a "hypothetical risk". The defense also requested confirmation of the acquittal for fraud.
Health insurance, other small social security funds and several mutuals are claiming nearly 570 million euros from Servier, believing that they have reimbursed millions of boxes of Mediator on the basis of "fraudulent maneuvers".
But for the defense, Servier cannot be held responsible for damage to these organizations, because the decision to reimburse a drug depends on a ministerial decree. However, the health authorities had as much, if not "more, information than the people I represent today," said De Castro.
In his argument, the lawyer also worked to rehabilitate the founder of the laboratories, Jacques Servier, who died in 2014, claiming that he was "not a man of money", while the prosecution and the parties civilians explain the maintenance of the Mediator on the market by "the greed". At the same time, he claimed that Servier no longer had "much in common" with the era of Jacques Servier, lamenting the "demonization" suffered, according to him, by the group.