Recalled Diet Pill Belviq Caused Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Lawsuit Alleges

Belviq was recalled in Feb. 2020, after just eight years on the market. However, lawsuit indicates diet pill makers knew or should have known about the link between Belviq and cancer much earlier

The diet drug Belviq was removed from the market in 2010, after it was linked to an increased incidence of cancer among users, and a recently filed product liability lawsuit directly blames the recalled Belviq pills for causing breast cancer for a Virginia woman.

Kellie Reynolds filed the complaint (PDF) in New Jersey state court on January 5, naming Eisai, Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as defendants, alleging that the diet pill manufacturers failed to adequately test Belviq before selling it the public.

Belviq was introduced in 2012, as the first new diet pill allowed on the market in the United States in years. Although the medication was introduced after a series of recalls and problems were associated with other weight-loss medications, Reynolds indicates that Eisai and Arena failed to adequately evalaute the potential long-term side effects of Belviq, including breast cancer.

The FDA required a Belviq recall in February 2020, after post marketing study data identified a potential cancer risk. However, according to the lawsuit filed by Reynolds, the drug makers knew or should have known about the link between Belviq and cancer long before the diet pill was recalled.

The decision to allow Belviq on the market was controversial, and the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen warned in 2012 there would likely be problems with Belviq, predicting the diet drug would eventually be discontinued and removed from the market, like a number of other previously-approved weight-loss treatments.

In July 2019, an expert analysis of clinical trial data was published by the American College of Cardiology, which looked at the effectiveness and side effects of Belviq, including the largest concern at the time: cardiovascular risks.

While not publicly announced until months later, the data contained concerning indications about a potential link between Belviq and pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer and lung cancer. However, the FDA did not issue Belviq cancer warnings until January 2020, and several weeks later it was determined the weight loss drug needed to be removed from the market.

“Prior to applying for and obtaining approval of Belviq in 2012, Eisai and Arena knew or should have known that human consumption of Belviq was associated with significant risks of cancer,” Reynolds’ lawsuit states. “Defendant possessed pre-clinical scientific studies, which evidence Eisai and Arena knew or should have known was the signal that the cancer risk needed further testing and studies prior to its introduction to the market.”

Reynolds’ case joins hundreds of similar Belvic lawsuits filed over the past two years, most involving claims by former users diagnosed with kidney cancer, thyroid cancer, pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer or other injuries blamed on side effects of the medication.

Since the strongest sales for Belviq came over the last few years the drug was on the market, it is widely expected that additional lawsuits will be filed in the coming months and years, as former users continue to develop injuries and learn that the problems may have been caused by their prior use of Belviq.

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