Lawsuit Alleges Link Between Rare Form of Brain Cancer and Belviq Diet Pills
A product liability lawsuit filed by a Colorado woman indicates that use of Belviq caused a rare brain cancer, indicating that she developed anaplastic astrocytoma after taking the diet pills for five years.
Dorenda Willmore filed the complaint (PDF) last month in New Jersey Superior Court, alleging that Eisai, Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals failed to adequately disclose the link between Belviq and cancer until federal regulators forced a recall of the diet pills.
Belviq was introduced in 2012, as the first new diet pill allowed on the market in the United States in years. Although it was introduced following a string of serious safety concerns linked to prior weight-loss medications, Willmore indicates the drug makers failed to adequately study the side effects of Belviq or disclose that the diet pill may cause cancer to develop.
In February 2020, the FDA required a Belviq recall, after post marketing study data identified increased cases of cancer among users, and Willmore is now one of a growing number of individuals nationwide pursuing Belviq lawsuits that allege they may have avoided a cancer diagnosis if earlier information had been disclosed.
According to Willmore’s complaint, she was prescribed Belviq in January 2015 for weight loss and diet control, and continued to take Belviq diet pills until February 2020. In October of 2020, she was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, which is a rare form of brain cancer the lawsuit blames on her use of Belviq.
“Plaintiff’s use of Belviq caused or significantly contributed to her development of brain cancer, which has permanently changed her life,” the lawsuit states. “By reason of the foregoing, Plaintiff had to undergo significant treatment and now requires constant and continuous medical monitoring and treatment due to the defective nature of Belviq.”
Willmore’s lawsuit indicates the manufacturers 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 that 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 colorectal cancer, pancreatic 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 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 are diagnosed and discover that their cancer was caused by Belviq before the recall.
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