Sanofi pledges €10m to Notre Dame, but faces backlash


Sanofi has said that it will donate 10 million Euros to the rebuilding of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, prompting a mixed response from the public.

The cathedral was severely damaged by a fire that began on Monday evening and was not fully extinguished until almost 15 hours later, destroying most of the cathedral's roof and collapsing its famous spire.

“It is with deep sadness that we witnessed the fire that ravaged #NotreDame, this architectural jewel of our heritage,” the Paris-based Sanofi tweeted yesterday. “As this tragic event touches all of us at Sanofi, we will be participating in its rebuilding through a donation of 10 million euros.”

“#NotreDame has survived through the centuries. We can be proud that our company is participating in its restoration for future generations,” added Olivier Brandicourt, the company’s CEO.

The BBC reports that over €800 million has already been pledged to the rebuilding by a number of companies and business leaders, including other French giants such as L’Oreal and Total.

But the reaction to Sanofi’s announcement on Twitter has been mixed. Although some people praised the move, many commenters took issue with the company providing money for the rebuilding and not for people affected by the side effects of its epilepsy drug Depakine (valproate).

The drug and its generics have been linked with severe birth defects in up to 4,100 children in France since it was first marketed there in 1967. Women who took the drug during pregnancy were four times more likely to have babies with malformations, according to a joint report by France’s drug regulator ANSM and the national health insurance administration, CNAMTS.

“Quick to pay to rebuild a roof but not so quick to build bridges after the devastating effects their drug has had on our children,” one commenter said.

Another said: “Cannot believe that you can do this in good conscience when there are thousands and thousands of children and adults around the world whose lives have been so badly affected by their drugs!!

“The families who have been affected by Sodium Valproate have NEVER had the recognition or support that they should have done. Sanofi make millions in profits from Sodium Valproate – whether you are legally responsible for the damage done or not, you are surely morally responsible for the affected families; certainly more so than for a building!!!”