French Drug Killed Around 1300 , Studies Confirm

Mediator, a drug licensed for use by diabetics that was widely prescribed in France as a diet product, “probably” at least 1,300 deaths before it was revoked due, a study published on Thursday said.

Mahmoud Zureik of the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM), who co-led the probe, said that about 3,100 people had required hospitalization during the 33 years when the drug was sold.

However, these figures could well be an “underestimate,” he said.

The study, which specialized in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, fine tunes an estimate of Zureik in 2010 that the death toll of the scandal was between 1,000 and 2,000.

Mediator, known by its lab name as Benfluorex, was initially licensed to the level of fatty proteins called lipid reduction, claiming that it helped people with diabetes control their blood sugar.

But it also suppresses appetite, which meant it was a secondary official use to help obese diabetics lose weight.

In fact, it was widely sold on prescription for non-diabetics to slim.

In 2009, Mediator drawn from the European market amid evidence that it caused heart valve damage and pulmonary hypertension.

The French manufacturer, Servier, is probed on suspicion of unfairness and deception.

The new study is an extrapolation based on figures for deaths caused by defective heart valves, though not of hypertension, for large users of the drug.

The main data come from the French national health insurance system, which said that 303,000 patients Mediator used in 2006.

According to the Mediator, 145 million packets of Mediator were sold on the French market for the drug was pulled.

The Mediator case came to light after a scandal involving a similar type of anti-obesity drug, fenfluramine, in the late 1990s.

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