In February 2020, the The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled a popular weight-loss drug, Belviq, from the market after a five-year study of the remedy was found to be associated with an increased risk of cancer.
Recently, a new Belviq lawsuit was filed in New Jersey. According to the complaint, per New York Injury Law News (a Legal Examiner affiliate), the plaintiff was prescribed Belviq in 2015, and continued to be prescribed the medication until 2019, totally unaware that taking the drug could increase his risk of developing cancer. In July 2020, just five months after the Belviq recall, the plaintiff was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The plaintiff’s lawsuit has been filed against the drug’s manufacturer, the Tokyo-based Eisai Inc, and Arena Pharmaceuticals. The two companies jointly launched Belviq in the U.S. in 2012. In 2017, Eisai purchased the global rights to develop and market the drug from Arena, which previously manufactured the drug.
What is Belviq?
Also known by its generic name, lorcaserin, Belviq (and Belviq XR) was a weight loss drug that was approved for use in adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. The drug was also cleared by the FDA for adults with a BMI of 27 or higher that also had at least one metabolic comorbidity factor such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.
How Does Belviq Work?
It controls appetite by activating serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, perhaps best-known for regulating mood. But it also plays a role in controlling appetite. Belviq, by activating serotonin receptors, was designed to promote satiety and fullness. The exact mechanism of how Belviq worked, however, was not known, according to FDA data.
Does Belviq Work?
It worked nearly half the time, according to the FDA. The data suggested that nearly 50% of dieters who took the medication lost at least five percent of their starting weight over a year. Only 23 percent of the placebo group in the study lost at least the same amount of weight.
Belviq’s drug information label warned to discontinue use of the medication after 12 weeks if weight loss of at least five percent of starting weight was not achieved.
Another Problematic Weight Loss Drug
According to a July 2012 article on AARP.org, Belviq was the first new weight loss pill introduced to the market in 13 years at the time.
Belviq was initially rejected by the FDA in 2010 over safety concerns, AARP reported. Those concerns, namely heart problems, were a hallmark of previous weight-loss drugs such as Fen-Phen (fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine), which was pulled from the market in 1997 because of heart valve disorders.
Other weight-loss pills that were recalled because of heart problems includes Xenical (orlistat) and Meridia (sibutramine).
Side Effects Of Belviq
More problematic than the less nefarious side effects—headache, dizziness, dry mouth, back pain and other listed here—lorcaserin was shown to have caused rare and aggressive tumors in rats as far back as 2007, according to the law firm of Tor Hoerman. A lawsuit filed in 2020 stated that Belviq should never have received FDA approval based on those observations.
The aforementioned five-year observational study, according to Tor Hoerman, examined 12,000 patients who were taking either Belviq or placebo. Although the researchers did not establish a clear link between heart problems and the usage of Belviq, they found that patients who took the drug had a higher cancer diagnosis rate than those who took a placebo.
Cancers of the pancreas, colon, lung and others have been observed in patients who took the weight-loss drug.
Status of Belviq Litigation
According to DrugWatch.com, a motion to consolidate Belviq cases into multidistrict litigation was filed in April. Plaintiffs’ attorneys, in petitioning the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation, said in a statement, “It is estimated that hundreds of individuals (if not numbers in the low thousands) developed cancer as a direct and proximate result of using … Belviq.”
Oral arguments to rule on the centralization of Belviq cases will begin this summer.