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As a panel of federal judges prepares to meet tomorrow to consider whether to centralize and consolidate all Belviq lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, new cases continue to be brought on behalf of former users of the recalled weight loss drug who have now been diagnosed with cancer.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) is scheduled to hear oral arguments tomorrow over whether to establish coordinated pretrial proceedings for federal Belviq cancer litigation, and transfer cases brought throughout the federal court system to one judge, since they all involve similar allegations that the drug makers failed to adequately warn users and the medical community that use of the diet drug may increase the risk of cancer.
The hearing was scheduled after a motion was filed to establish a Belviq MDL (multidistrict litigation) in April, at which time there were about 13 cases pending in 12 different U.S. District Courts nationwide. However, there are also a growing number of cases being brought in state courts that raise similar allegations.
One new complaint (PDF) was filed last week by Gracia Profaci and her husband, Joseph, against Eisai, Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in the Superior Court of New Jersey for Bergen County, where the drug makers’ principal place of business is located.
Profaci indicates she began using Belviq for weight loss in November 2018, and continued to take the drug through March 2019, stopping use of the medication about one year before the FDA required a Belviq recall due to the increased incidence of cancer diagnosed among users nationwide.
“As a result of using Defendants’ Belviq, Plaintiff Gracia Profaci, was caused to suffer from breast cancer on or about July 23, 2019, and was caused to sustain severe and permanent personal injuries, pain, suffering, and emotional distress,” the lawsuit states. “The injuries and damages sustained by Plaintiff, Gracia Profaci, were caused by Defendants’ Belviq and/or their misrepresentations relating to same.”
The lawsuit raises allegations that Belviq was defectively designed and formulated, making it “more dangerous than an ordinary consumer would expect.”
Belviq Recall Due to Cancer Risk
Belviq (lorcaserin) was first introduced in April 2012, and concerns were immediately raised about the safety and effectiveness of the weight loss drug, following a series of recalls issued in prior years for other diet pills.
Before Eisai and Arena Pharmaceuticals began to aggressively market the drug, the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen warned there would be problems with Belviq, predicting the diet drug would eventually be removed from the market like a number of other previously-approved weight-loss treatments.
In July 2019, an expert analysis of the CAMEILLIA-TIMI 61 Trial 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.
Since the decision, a steadily growing number of cancer lawsuits over Belviq have been brought, and the size and scope of the litigation is expected to continue to increase as more former users learn that a cancer diagnosis may be the result of prior use of the weight loss treatment.