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Eisai, Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals concealed information about the link between side effects of Belviq and cancer, according to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit filed by a Virginia woman who developed colorectal cancer after taking the weight loss drug for several years before it was recalled.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Rhonda Barabach in New Jersey Superior Court on June 2, alleging the diet drug makers failed to properly warn both medical professionals and consumers about the increased risk of cancer that may be caused by Belviq (lorcaserin).
Eisai and Arena introduced Belviq in 2012, as the first new diet pill approved in the United States in years, following a series of recalls and problems associated with other weight-loss medications. Although consumer safety advocates raised serious concerns about the safety of Belviq, the drug makers aggressively marketed the treatment as safe and effective.
In February 2020, the FDA required a Belviq recall, after identifying an increased incidence of cancer among users of the medication in post-marketing study data.
According to the lawsuit, Barabach was prescribed Belviq in September 2015, and used it until October 2017. However, in August 2020, she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, which the lawsuit blames on her Belviq use.
“From September 2015 to October 2017, Plaintiff continued to take Belviq for her weight loss without knowing of the significant increased risk that Belviq could cause her to develop cancer,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff’s use of Belviq caused or significantly contributed to her development of colorectal cancer, which has permanently changed her life.”
Belviq Cancer Warnings
After an FDA advisory panel decided to approve the medication in April 2012, 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. The study 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.
The lawsuit indicates Barabach could not have reasonably learned of the link between Belviq and cancer until the FDA’s January 2020 announcement about the Belviq cancer risks.
The case joins a number of Belviq lawsuits filed over the last year by former users who allege that cancer diagnosed in recent years was a result of the medication.
In addition to individual cancer diagnosis lawsuits over Belviq, a number of class action claims have also been filed on behalf of former users who paid about $300 per month for the diet drug, and now face continuing health risks that require medical monitoring.
Since the strongest sales for Belviq have come over the past few years, it is widely expected that additional lawsuits will be filed in the coming months and years, as former users may be diagnosed with cases of breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and other injuries.