France’s government warned patients to see their doctor if they took a diabetes drug that is believed to have killed 500 people over three decades before it was banned a year ago.
The alert targets Mediator, a drug for overweight people with diabetes that was also used as an appetite suppressant until it was banned in November 2009 over fears it was linked to heart trouble.
“Our message to all those who took Mediator is that they must see a doctor — particularly those who took it for three months over the past four years,” new Health Minister Xavier Bertrand told a news conference.
Drug safety body Afssaps said in a statement: “Analyses by expert epidemiologists estimate that about 500 deaths could be attributable to benfluorex,” Mediator’s active ingredient, since its launch in France in 1976…
Irene Frachon, a doctor who this year published a study warning about the drug, said “Mediator is responsible for a health disaster”. She added that there was no need to panic, however, estimating that one in 2,000 people who took the drug were at risk of serious ill-effects.
“The health authorities were late in withdrawing this drug despite several alerts” about threats it posed to the heart valves, Frachon told AFP…
A Servier spokesman told AFP four patients had lodged complaints about Mediator since 2009 and that 500 deaths represented a tiny risk compared to the number of people who took the drug.
“But in terms of brand image, it’s disagreeable,” he added.
Oh, well. We can all understand that. Image is so important.