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Recalled Diet Drug Makers Seek to Dismiss Class Action Lawsuit Over Belviq

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Eisai, Inc. Arena Pharmaceuticals and CVS Pharmacy have filed a joint motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of former users of Belviq, which alleged that side effects of the recalled diet drug increase the risk of cancer.

Belviq and Belviq XR (lorcaserin) were first introduced as prescription weight-loss treatments in 2012, and were widely marketed in recent years as safe and effective. However, following an analysis of a post-marketing study, the FDA recently determined that users may experience an increased incidence of pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and other injuries.

Following an FDA warning issued in February, the drug maker announced a Belviq recall on February 13, and a growing number of consumers are now pursuing damages after paying about $300 per month for the prescription, which was typically not covered by insurance.

The recall was followed by a number of Belviq lawsuits brought by former users diagnosed with cancer, as well as at least one class action complaint filed in late March by Barbara Zottola, who said the drug makers and distributors knew or should have known about the cancer risks, yet continued to sell the drug.

On September 9, the defendants filed a joint memorandum of law (PDF) with Judge Philip M. Halpern in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, calling for the class action to be dismissed by the court.

The memorandum alleges the plaintiff has not made a legal case under New York laws, arguing the lawsuit fails to state a cause of action, that the alleged injury is not recognized by state law, and has failed to identify any misleading advertising in the lawsuit.

Supplemental memorandums were also filed by Eisai (PDF), Arena (PDF), and CVS (PDF). All say the lawsuit represents no plausible claim for relief under New York laws.

Belviq Health Concerns

Belviq was designed to help weight loss by producing a feeling of being full, and thus causing users to want to eat less. However, even the makers of the diet pill acknowledged that the precise way Belviq works was not fully understood.

At the time the medication was approved, the FDA required the drug makers to conduct a five year follow up study involving about 12,000 participants to evaluate the potential heart risks associated with the medication. However, researchers identified at least 462 individuals treated with Belviq who were diagnosed with 520 different primary cancers over a median follow up time of three years and three months.

Zottola’s lawsuit alleges she and other consumers never would have agreed to take the weight loss drug if the drug makers had disclosed the potential cancer risks, and plaintiffs have not yet filed a response to the motion to dismiss.

The outcome of these motions will have no impact on individual Belviq lawsuits filed in recent months by individuals diagnosed with cancer, which allege that the injuries may have been prevented if warnings and risk information had been provided by the drug makers.

Since the strongest sales for Belviq have come over the past few years, additional cases of pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and other injuries may be diagnosed in the coming weeks and months.

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