Jacques Servier, Focus of French Health Scandal, Dies at 92

Jacques Servier, the billionaire founder of France’s second-largest drugmaker, Les Laboratoires Servier, who late in life faced accusations of hiding information about life-threatening risks caused by a diabetes drug his companies sold, has died. He was 92.

He died today at his home, the Suresnes, France-based company said in a statement.

Servier had a net worth of about $5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The case involves Mediator, which was pulled from the market after 33 years in November 2009 over concerns it caused heart-valve damage. The move sparked an overhaul of how France’s drug industry is regulated.

A French government agency, the Inspection Generale des Affaires Sociales, said in a January 2011 report that Les Laboratoires Servier depicted the drug as a diabetes treatment when in reality it was a “potent” appetite suppressant closely related to fenfluramine, a component of the diet-drug combination fen-phen.

Fenfluramine was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1997 after it was linked to heart-valve damage. Wyeth, now a unit of New York-based Pfizer Inc., set aside more than $21 billion to resolve personal-injury claims over the drug combination.

In 2012, when he was 90, a French court brought manslaughter and injury charges against Servier and six companies of the Servier group, according to the New York Times. Servier and the companies denied hiding the risks of Mediator, which is suspected of causing as many as 2,000 deaths.

Case Delayed

The Associated Press reported in May 2013 that the trial, in Nanterre, France, was being postponed by at least a year so that a judge in Paris could complete a separate investigation.

Closely held Servier, France’s second-largest drugmaker based on sales after Sanofi, said it had contacted French doctors who prescribed Mediator for weight-loss to remind them that wasn’t what the drug was approved for.

Jacques Paul Servier was born on Feb. 9, 1922, to Marcel Servier, an industrialist, and the former Leontine Bazin, in Vatan, a village in France’s Indre province, according to Who’s Who in France.

He received an MD in 1947 and a pharmacy diploma three years later from Paris University, according to a C.V. on the website of College International de Recherche Servier, a foundation he co-founded. He earned a Doctor of Pharmacy from Lille University in 1957.

In 2009, then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy awarded Servier the French Legion of Honor.

On April 18, 1945, he married Janine Pinard, a medical doctor, according to Who’s Who. They had four daughters: Dominique, Christine, Isabelle and Pascale.

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