France shaken by fresh scandal over weight-loss drug linked to deaths

France shaken by fresh scandal over weight-loss drug linked to deaths

We quite often see questions about various weight-loss products. So, this story might have real relevance.

Please, be very careful.

Mediator is the brand name for benfluorex.

France shaken by fresh scandal over weight-loss drug linked to deaths

Drug company boss faces manslaughter investigation as victims complain of delays in compensation

The amphetamine derivative Mediator was marketed to overweight diabetics but often prescribed to healthy women as an appetite suppressant when they wanted to lose a few pounds. According to the French health ministry it has killed at least 500 people from heart-valve damage, but other studies put the death toll nearer to 2,000. Thousands more complain of cardiovascular complications that have limited their daily lives.

<skipped paragraphs>

Daniele Mourhlon, 71, a retired police administrator from Albi, had a thyroid problem when she was prescribed with Mediator to avoid gaining weight. She said: "Ironically I was actually never a person who carried extra weight. I had had three kids and people always said how slim I looked. I cooked healthily and loved long hikes. But I followed the doctor's orders and took Mediator three times a day for five years and it cut my appetite." But it had a terrible side-effect. "My kids said: 'Mum, you're speaking quietly, walking slowly.' It's as if I was on tranquilisers. They didn't think I was myself. They thought there was something odd about me." Mourhlon had to have open-heart surgery on three valves after damage from the drug. "Since then I'm very fragile. I'm dependent on medication. I have problems breathing and can't do even the smallest things. I can't do housework, I can't bend down. I can't hike any more. My life expectancy has been reduced. I'm angry with the pharmaceutical labs. I never would have taken it if I'd known."

<much more at link - only the thyroid-related bit has been quoted>

Specific pharmaceutical details, including other, related products such as Fenfluramine, Dexfenfluramine and Isomeride which had already been banned, are detailed here:


32 Replies

  • Having suffered from side effects of an antibiotic for over five years now, that Canadian Scientists have found to have multiple toxicities, I am absolutely terrified of nearly all drugs now. Much more stringent tests need to be done with drug company bosses trying them out first to have a tate of their own medicine before foistinJanet.g it on the general public. The antibiotic I was prescribed has been on the market for 30 years and (I understand from an advert in a womans' magazine) can now be bought over the counter in an emergency situation. I wonder if this is to get rid of current stock?

  • Out of interest, which antibiotic?

  • Rod, will send PM not sure if I should give name!

  • It's fine to mention medicine names! it is, I believe,

    "Azithromycin tablets can be sold to the public for the treatment of confirmed, asymptomatic Chlamydia trachomatis genital infection in those over 16 years of age, and for the epidemiological treatment of their sexual partners, subject to max. single dose of 1 g, max. daily dose 1 g, and a pack size of 1 g"

    (From BNF)

  • So, was I given the wrong antibiotic as I had an E.Coli UTI?

  • Hi j_bee,

    If you had been prescribed Azithromycin then yes, it possibly would have been the wrong medicine for your UTI. But I see you've posted below that you were given Trimethoprim, which (according to my research), is definitely indicated, frequently prescribed and generally considered a successful treatment for UTIs.

    So sorry to hear you had such a bad experience :( There is always going to be a minority of people who get a bad reaction I guess. Shame you had to be one of them.

  • Thank you for your comments RedApple. Just feel that since becoming hypo after subtotal thyroidectomy I have had problems with all sorts of antibiotics and only been alright on Amoxicilin or Tetracycline and even then only with the protection of Nystatin, which they don't want to prescribe now. My gp would not give me either of these recently and I ended up on Cephalosporin and can feel the Candid building up again. Am taking steps to alleviate this, but it is a long slow job which I feel is why doctors don't want to know. Definitely feel that weight loss tablets should be banned.

  • Is Trimethoprim the trade name for Azithromycin then?

  • No - that was my mistake.

  • I know what you mean. I had a reaction whilst in hospital I should have been in at 2 p.m. and out by 10 p.m) I was actually in for four days and I hate being prescribed something now. Even to take a paracetamol takes an enormous effort as you are now very suspicious of anything. The consultant I saw on allergies told me if I am ever prescribed something I have never had before, to take it initially where I can get medical assistance if required so you can understand my reluctance as I understand yours.

    Re your antibiotic, I don't think it should be sold over-the-counter.

  • Hi shaws, Good advice about being where you can get medical asistance if needed, but I have found they don't want to know if it something they have given you in the first place. We really have to go so carefully though don't we. I certainly don't think the antibiotic should be sold over the counter and in fact, not at all, and can't believe tit has been on the market for 30 years already.

  • The actual name of the antibiotic was Trimethoprim, just so folks know to avoid it if possible.

  • OMG - my mum and daughter just had that for UTIs - I'd not seen it before (2 a day for 5 days)- I wondered why it wasn't the usual amoxycillin (3 a day for a week) J x

  • Trimethoprim seems to be indicated for UTIs, so not such a surprise that mum and daughter were given it. I think doctors are being encouraged to try to prescribe more specificly targeted anti-biotics now, rather than simply dishing out the broad spectrum ones like amoxycillin. There are real concerns over increasing anti-b resistant infections apparently.

  • both Mum and daughter hardly have them, thank goodness (OK mum may be getting UTIs more often - 2nd time ever). x

  • Only a worry if you think either (or both) may be 'thyroidally challenged'. UTI frequency being a symptom of low thyroid levels, and in that circumstance, taking anti-Bs of any variety can open the flood gates for candida overgrowth. Which of course the docs don't want to hear about :(

  • Thanks for the specific info j_bee. It's really helpful to be aware of others experience, and sad that you had to suffer the consequences of such a negative reaction. But also good to realise that we're all different and from what I've read, it appears that many people do just fine with this medicine.

  • I am against meds for weightloss I really don't trust them. Blocking absorption can't possibly be healthy.

    Mind you, I have only been against them since I have had so many problems with nutritional deficiencies and learned how awful they can be (caused by lack of gut bacteria and malabsorption, I have never taken diet meds).

    I think diet shakes are good though, at least they attempt to give you all the vitamins and minerals you need, unlike diet meds that focus on blocking absorption.

    I noticed several ads on TV today promoting various types of blocking meds to lose weight. Scandalous they're allowed, I think people are going to suffer from the effects.


  • Being amphetamine-type medicines, the Mediator product is intended to reduce appetite (and might increasing metabolism). The result of eating less can also be reduced availability of critical nutrition!

    Your point about trying to provide the requirements is good, but I worry about diet shakes - in that some contain significant quantities of soy. I take a randomly selected Cambridge weight plan shake - which has these ingredients:

    Toffee & Walnut flavour (with sweetener):

    Skimmed milk powder, Soya flour, Soya protein

    isolate, Powdered cellulose, Soya lecithin,

    Sodium citrate, Stabilisers (xanthan gum,

    carrageenan), Flavouring, Potassium chloride,

    Compound vitamin and mineral mixture**,

    Magnesium oxide, Sweetener (aspartame*),


    * Contains source of phenylalanine.

    Allergens: Contains milk and soya.

    That also contains aspartame, a substance I try to avoid. And indeterminate "flavouring".

  • Oh that's interesting, yes.

    I followed a shakes and soups diet for a while under supervision of my clinical nutritionist. I was on this: INSUMED

    Now I have a shake for breakfast and eat normally for the rest of the day. I felt good on the diet and lost weight.

    Insumed hasn't got aspartame but does contain saccharin. It's got some soya in it too - why is that bad?

    I'm also not keen on sweeteners and would prefer maple syrup or agave.


  • Soy products interfere with thyroid hormones!

    However it is not a dead simple "soy always makes people hypothyroid". The interactions can be complex.

    We agree on avoiding sweeteners!

  • aspartame is in loads of stuff, it's tricky to avoid now.

    Especially drinks, not only 'diet' ones, which I always avoid, even when it says 'natural' , and Even Cider now.

    suppose I'd better go tea-total - except I hate tea! J :D

  • I manage to avoid it at least virtually always. :-) But it certainly does take care and attention. Always have been aware of sweeteners as saccharin seems to affect my pulse - gets faster if I have a couple of drinks with it in. (Can usually manage one.) Never seen anyone else say that so assume it is unique to me. And they all taste foul except, possibly, stevia and the oddity xylitol.

    Try going teetotal. :-) Mind, I'd rather have some alcohol.

  • I haven't reacted to sweeteners myself but I have read about what they (can) do so I try to avoid them too. My nutrition doctor hasn't got a strong opinion on the topic but says sugar should be limited. Another doc recommended using maple syrup, agave or stevia.

    Regarding the French diet pills I had wrongly assumed they were meant to block the absorption of things eg fat or whatever. I had seen several ads on TV for other pills that do.

    Amphetamines must be tough on the heart. I wonder if it feels a little bit like taking too much T3. My asthma meds have always made my heart race for a while after taking them too.

    As for soya, an allergy test indicated I had a class 3 allergy to it. I eat so little of it I hadn't noticed haha. The shakes seem fine, the amount must be minimal.


  • Very interesting article - living in France and having experienced French doctors/specialists it doesn't surprise me. When I was overmedicated with levothyrox none of the specialists I saw recognised it i.e. they told me to see a psychologist...... funny thing was that even on the levothryodx it said symptoms kick in 6 days after starting which happened to me.... the ironic thing in France is that this type of drug is very popular - and any medical 'scandals/errors are rarely reported in the press.....but you can't buy ERFA here..... strange country!!! Anytime a doctor prescribes me anything including antibiotic I check on the FDA website..... I was given one - called Fungizone - banned in all other European countries.... Now I know that when I have a 'gut' feeling about something I don't take it.....

  • I rather thought you might comment! Good to have a view from someone with direct experience.

    I think that with internet access, all who are able should do what they can to find out about their disorders and treatments. Unfortunately it seems the only way of trying to avoid bad treatment/bad medicines. Certainly the medicinal establishment has not warranted the trust they seem to expect us to have in them.

  • Yes I have to agree. Although things seem to be diffiucult in the UK and Ireland I must admit that there is a least a culture of debate/dialogue and 'normally' any medical errors are reported in the press. Not so here in France - my ex gp (half -US), had a patient who had become completely debilitated (19 operations over a period of time). When the patient tried to sue the numerous doctors though the French courts he got 1800EUR....and he's considered completely handicapped..... whilst we have a lot to complain about in UK/Ireland (noticeably the need to go private), there are options: whilst I take ERFA I have to buy it in Brussels where my doctor is... French legislation 'bans' it as a 'dangerous drug'.... the irony of course being that Fungizone/Mediator are dished out for decades!! My current doctor maintains that each patient has to be their own 'doctor' - i.e. armed with information and also know your own body..... I can honestly say my health wouldn't have deteriorated so much if I'd been living in Ireland.... most UK/Irish doctors don't through hormones at people would proper tests or listening to symptoms.....This website has really helped me in terms of information sharing and finding my doctor in Brussels....sadly not many 'good' ones in Paris!

  • Is it Dr Hertoghe you see in Brussels? He charges an absolute packet doesn't he? I only see docs my insurance pays for though, so all private docs strike me as rip off merchants lol.

    But I agree about Belgium, it is pretty open minded. When I discovered I was deficient in DHEA 57 (130-490) my German doc couldn't help so I drove back over the border, saw a new Belgian NHS doc who prescribed it on the spot.


  • Yes it's Dr H I see. He is expensive - but he does know what he's talking about and it is really personalised medecine - integrating diet too. Wel I can tell you having spent 6 years suffering with French private doctors he's cheap in comparison: not pricewise but in getting a proper diagnosis and treatment.... Unfortunately my private insurance doesn't cover Dr H...but there was really no alternative here in France... the doctors who say they follow Dr H's treatment don't seem to care about health but more about the anti-aging aspect of his work.... Funny that a German doctor couldn't prescribe DHEA.... Yes compared to France Belgium is a much more open minded country - wonder if it's to do with being a small country...

  • Please see my reply below, sorry I didn't click "reply to this" - my laptop can't reply that way so I forgot it works on this iPad!


  • I don't know, but I really like the German and French speaking Belgians I have met and got to know. Not so keen on the Flemish...

    I wonder if they're open minded because they are often multilingual so therefore get more cultural and linguistically influenced input in their daily lives? They are also very near borders with other countries so they are always aware that there are different ways of dealing with things.

    German and French speaking Belgians are also very modest people, very open to the possibility that someone else has got a better idea. Maybe that influences how the docs react their patients? also the culture that you want to please your patients and are willing to prescribe what they want.

    Yes, that anti-ageing thing is what I thought Dr H was more focused on when I read his website. That is why he is so expensive I suppose. in comparison to Belgian NHS docs I mean.

    A German doc told me they can prescribe DHEA but are discouraged from doing so and are likely to be checked if they do. My clinical nutritionist said she has prescribed it occasionally. She gives me as much T3 and Levo as I want though, so I'm happy enough :-) My Belgian GP gives me DHEA.

    If you wouldn't mind saying,what has DR H put you on? Which tests did he carry out? Thanks!


  • On the oridginal thread: "Speed" Blues,(60's diet pill) Dexys were drugs of old abused by the eeermm hippy/alternative culture many moons ago, all the drugs were produced by license. Blues and other amphetamines were banned here form dieting years ago? I have known about the side effects of "speed" since a teen as it was documented in schools in the say no to drugs campagins. It hardens your artries, damages your metabolic rate, strips vit E/Calium, upsets the balance in your gut damages your skin, and can lead to phyciatric problems, and the ist goes on. DOH!

    jeez muppets I ask you, Methadrine was ok for helping the lads to storm the beaches in france, what were they thinking of?

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