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PARIS, May 21 (Reuters) - The trial of French drugmaker Servier and its founder over allegations of misleading patients and authorities about the side effects of a diabetes drug has been delayed so a higher court can consider an appeal by defendants.
The Mediator drug is blamed for at least 500 deaths and the case has put authorities under scrutiny for allowing the medicine to remain on sale long after it had been pulled in other European countries.
France's Court of Cassation now has up to three months to hand down a decision after defendants claimed that holding two trials on the same case - one that began last Monday and another due to start in several months - violates their constitutional rights.
The court may either decide to reject the appeal, in which case the first trial may go forward, or pass it on to a constitutional court, which would have another three months to hand down a definitive decision.
The trial that began with last Monday's hearing in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre was to focus on whether Servier made misleading claims. A second, broader trial is still pending over allegations of manslaughter and corruption.
Although licensed as a diabetes treatment, Mediator was widely prescribed, with a state subsidy, as an appetite suppressant to help people lose weight in what has become one of France's worst health scandals.
The drug is now suspected of causing heart valve disorders and was withdrawn in France in November 2009, around a decade after being pulled in Spain, Italy and the United States. (Reporting By Thierry Leveque; Writing by Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Will Waterman)