Pan Pharmaceuticals founder Jim Selim dies

PAN Pharmaceuticals founder Jim Selim, who successfully fought the Federal Government after it banned 219 of his alternative medicines, has died at the age of 68.

His long-time solicitor Andrew Thorpe said Mr Selim died last night surrounded by his family, after a long and “very, very courageous” struggle against leukaemia.

“He was a very brave person, a very strong person, very intelligent, with very great conviction in what he believed, and great determination,” Mr Thorpe told AAP.

Mr Selim, who founded Pan Pharmaceuticals in the 1970s, saw the company collapse in 2003 after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) issued warnings about its Travacalm travel sickness pills.

It alleged 87 people had suffered adverse reactions, including hallucinations, and 19 had been admitted to hospital. The TGA suspended Pan Pharmaceuticals’ licence and ordered immediate withdrawal of 219 of its products.  In 2005, the company pleaded guilty to 24 charges relating to defective medication and was fined $3 million.
It then went into liquidation.

Mr Selim launched a civil action against the TGA to recover more than $200 million, claiming the TGA acted negligently and outside the limits of its statutory powers.  In August 2008, the TGA agreed to settle the case, paying $50 million damages plus Mr Selim’s costs.  Meanwhile, Mr Selim himself was put on trial on the criminal charge of directing a Pan worker to destroy data.

After two trials were aborted, Justice Elizabeth Fullerton directed a jury to acquit him.  The Government tried to prosecute him again, after legislation over-riding the principle of double jeopardy was passed, but the Court of Appeal ruled the law could not be applied retrospectively.

“He was vindicated,” Mr Thorpe told AAP, “and he fought courageously to achieve that vindication.”  Former Pan Pharmaceuticals chief financial officer and company secretary Chris Grundy said he was saddened by the news of Mr Selim’s death.  “I admired the man for his stance,” Mr Grundy told AAP.

“He stuck to his beliefs.”

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