by Virginie Bagouet
PARIS, 11 Oct (APM) - Servier's defence has claimed in hearings in the first weeks of the Mediator (benfluorex) trial at Paris' court of first instance (TGI) that the preliminary inquiry and then the investigation that followed spared health authorities.
Servier's lawyers went down this route last week and are targeting the report from the French social affairs inspectorate (Igas) and notably one of its three authors - Aquilino Morelle - by saying the report is fragile and asking numerous questions about Morelle's conflicts of interest, especially his friendship with Didier Tabuteau, head of the drugs agency between 1993 and 1997.
Servier's defence has been developing these arguments for several years, with two of its lawyers questioning how such a ''dense'' report, covering ''40 years'' could have been written so quickly.
The two lawyers said Morelle's report gave the impression of being a collective work, whose main authors did not come from Igas, but France's drugs' regulator ANSM.
The Igas report led to an inquiry, an investigation and a detailed scientific analysis report. But Servier's defence sought to discredit this work and one of its authors, stating that the investigation would have had ''the permanent worry'' of ''walking in Igas' footsteps'' and as a consequence would not have proceeded to ''any serious investigation to highlight the failure of the pharmacovigilance system,'' said lawyers Hervé Temime and François De Castro.
Year between searches of Servier and health authorities
Servier's defence has also highlighted the delay between the police searches of Servier and ANSM (at the time Afssaps).
The Paris public prosecutor's office had asked police to search both Servier's and ANSM's offices for information about the drug, to investigate the pharmacovigilance system and to investigate Servier.
While Servier's offices were searched by the police several times between February and September 2011, ANSM's offices, however, were not searched until February 2012.
In addition, as De Castro pointed out, ANSM's offices were only searched after Servier requested it.
Two of the police officers who carried out the searches were asked about this delay, but both replied that they were unable to answer as they had been following the orders of Alain Atger, another police officer who had not been asked to attend the trial.
'Servier's arguments are empty' - victims' lawyer
Charles Joseph-Oudin, lawyer for the victims, told APM that since the beginning of the trial, Servier's defence has been trying to discredit Igas' report and the criminal inquiry.
He believes that ''these empty attempts'' to reveal ''a conspiracy are irrelevant and show that Servier's arguments … are empty''. He also pointed out that ANSM is currently facing charges for ''involuntary manslaughter and harm''.