"It must knock!": Lawyers for civil parties at the Mediator trial on Thursday demanded in Paris heavy financial sanctions against the Servier laboratories and that their prohibition to practice in France be ordered in order to put an end to a "feeling of impunity ".
"The victims expect neither pity nor compassion" from the criminal court, but that it opens a new "era", launched Me Martine Verdier. With three other lawyers for the civil action, she claimed "vindictive action" and shot red bullets at the pharmaceutical group.
Put on the market in 1976, the Mediator was marketed for 33 years as an adjunct to the treatment of diabetes but has been widely diverted as an appetite suppressant. Prescribed to approximately five million people, it is held responsible for hundreds of deaths and for causing serious heart disease.
More than ten years after its withdrawal, the Servier laboratories and their former number 2 Jean-Philippe Seta appear in particular for "aggravated deception" and "homicides and involuntary injuries", accused of having knowingly concealed the anorectic properties of the drug and its toxicity.
The Medicines Agency (ANSM, formerly Afssaps) is on their side for having delayed suspending the Mediator, despite warnings about its dangerousness since 1995.
Since the revelation of the health scandal, the group has always rejected any intentional fault. For the civil parties, the laboratories "knew" that the molecule of the Mediator was chemically close to two other appetite suppressants from Servier, withdrawn from the market in 1997 because of their toxicity, but continued "to hide the mortal risks".
"The group stood up to hold an official line: + the Mediator is not an appetite suppressant +", supported Me Sylvie Topaloff, another lawyer for civil parties.
The "misuse of use" of the Mediator was however "an open secret", according to her. "Women are not completely stupid: if they asked for this prescription, it is because they were looking for the effect produced", losing "a few pounds", continued Mr. Topaloff.
- "Want to scream" -
Out of the thousands of civil parties, only a few came to the bar to tell their "broken lives" after having ingested "a poison".
"They were very dignified. We want to scream. When will you stop lying?" Fussed Martine Verdier. It attacked the laboratories' "strategy of trouble", their "attitude of repeated denial" when, during the debates, their representatives and Mr. Seta invoked "errors of assessment".
"This strategy now seems obsolete," said Me Verdier. "There is no mistake", just "profit": "The Mediator remained on the market for more than 30 years when it was toxic and had no medical benefit", she insisted.
Before her, Toulouse lawyer Stella Bisseuil had called on the court to "restore the lost confidence" of Mediator consumers "in medicine, pharmacists, healthcare in general and against health authorities".
And because the "strategy of influence" of the Servier laboratories with the health authorities led to their "weakening", it demanded that the victims also be compensated in the area of conflicts of interest, for which several former members of the Agency are being prosecuted.
For Me Charles Joseph-Oudin, who represents hundreds of victims, direct or "by ricochets", it is a given that the court "will sanction the past". But to "finish with a feeling of impunity", he also called on the judges to render a "symbolic" and "dissuasive" decision. "If the court ordered the closure of Servier laboratories in France, it would only represent 5% of their turnover," he said.
The four lawyers also requested the publication of the judgment on the group's website. They claim 100,000 euros for each of their clients constituted in the "deception" section, and 200,000 when they show symptoms of the disease.
The pleadings of the civil parties continue on Monday. The prosecution will take its requisitions Tuesday and Wednesday. The Mediator river trial is scheduled to end on July 6, after the defense pleadings.
© 2020 AFP