Class Action Lawsuit Over Belviq Cancer Risk Dismissed By NY Judge

A U.S. District Judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed against Eisai, Arena Pharmaceuticals and CVS, which sought class action status over the failure to warn consumers about a cancer risk from Belviq, a weight loss drug that was removed from the market last year.

Belviq (lorcaserin) was first introduced as prescription weight-loss treatments in 2012, and was widely marketed as safe and effective. However, following an analysis of post-marketing data, a Belviq recall was issued in early 2020, due to an increased incidence of pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and other injuries.

Eisai and Arena Pharmaceuticals now face dozens of Belviq cancer lawsuits filed by former users diagnosed following use of the medication, as well as a number of complaints that seek class action status to pursue damages for former users who have not yet diagnosed with cancer.

A complaint filed by Barbara Zottola in March 2020 sought to pursue damages for all individuals who purchased Belviq or Belviq XR, alleging that the putative class members were injured by paying the full purchase price for the medication, since Eisai and Arena Pharmaceuticals were not forthright about the cancer risk.

The drug makers filed a motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit over Belviq, arguing that Zottola failed to state a claim, due to the lack of a cognizable injury and failure to assert that the Defendants’ conduct was “materially misleading.”

In an opinion and order (PDF) issued on September 29, U.S. District Judge Philip Halpern of the Southern District of New York, agreed with the drug makers and granted a motion to dismiss the case.

“Plaintiff fails to specify a misrepresentation or omission made by Defendants,” Judge Halpern wrote. “Plaintiff pleads generally that Defendants did not disclose the Medications’ cancer risks to consumers. But this type of vague allegation, without more, is insufficient to plead a fraud or fraudulent concealment claim.”

The ruling only applies to this one case, and not the Belviq litigation as a whole, which is currently spread before various different judges in U.S. District Courts nationwide, after the U.S. Judicial Panel in Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided not to centralize cases during a hearing in August 2021.

Rather than centralizing the Belviq cancer claims before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings, the parties are informally coordinating efforts to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues and move the litigation forward. However, lawsuits are filed by individuals diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and other injuries, it is likely that several hundred individual claims may ultimately be included in the litigation.

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