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Servier, lab founder in drug scandal, dies at 92

Thursday - 4/17/2014, 7:54am  ET

FILE - In this May 21, 2013 file photo, Jacques Servier, founder of Servier Laboratories, is pictured during the opening of the trial of the so-called Mediator case, a drug allegedly linked to hundreds of deaths, at Nanterre's court house, outside Paris. Servier, the founder of France's second-largest pharmaceutical group who became ensnared in a scandal over a diabetes drug widely used for weight loss, has died. He was 92. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

PARIS (AP) -- Jacques Servier, the founder of France's second-largest pharmaceutical group who became ensnared in a scandal over a diabetes drug widely used for weight loss, has died.

Servier Research Group announced the death of 92-year-old Servier late Wednesday.

Servier and his lab were at the center of one of France's biggest health scandals, in which the drug Mediator was alleged to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. The European Medicines Agency pulled Mediator from shelves when it found that its active ingredient, benfluorex, could lead to a dangerous thickening of heart valves. The ingredient is a derivative of fenfluramine, whose use in a diet drug in the U.S. was linked to similar problems.

In a statement, the lab said Servier's "life revolved around the research of innovative medicines."

But in recent years, Servier was best known for the troubles with Mediator, and his frail appearance last year in a French courtroom did little to win him sympathy in the case.

"The victims must be reassured: The death of Jacques Servier will delay but not bring an end to justice," said Irene Frachon, the physician who was among the first to uncover problems linked to the drug.

In the case against Servier and his lab, the court claimed the nature of benfluorex was hidden to obtain approval for the drug, first marketed in 1976 and taken by more than 5 million people. It alleged the drug, often prescribed as a hunger suppressant, was behind the deaths of between 500 and 2,000 people over more than three decades.


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