JPML to Hear Oral Arguments on Belviq Lawsuit Consolidation in July

A panel of federal judges has agreed to hear oral arguments next month over whether all Belviq cancer lawsuits should be consolidated before one judge, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Although Belviq (lorcaserin) was just introduced as a new prescription weight loss drug in 2012, the medication was recalled from the market last year, after post marketing data found a large number of reports involving users diagnosed with cancer.

A Belviq recall was announced in February 2020, after federal health officials concluded that any benefits provided by the weight loss drug cannot justify the potential risk, and at least 13 product liability lawsuits have already been filed by former users diagnosed with various types of cancer.

The size of the litigation is expected to continue to grow over the coming months and years, as Belviq injury lawyers continue to review potential claims, with some estimates suggesting that several hundred lawsuits may eventually be filed throughout the federal court system, each raising similar allegations that former users may have avoided cancer if the makers of the diet drug had properly researched the potential side effects.

To help coordinate and manage the growing litigation, a group of plaintiffs joined together to file a motion to transfer with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in April, asking that cases pending nationwide be centralized in the Eastern District of Louisiana for discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Eisai Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals, who are named as defendants in the litigation, have opposed the request to consolidate the Belviq cases, arguing that establishing a class action-like multidistrict litigation (MDL) should be a move of last resort.

On June 16, the JPML issued a Notice of Hearing Session (PDF), scheduling oral arguments on the motion for July 29, at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts. The notice indicates the panel will hear the oral arguments by videoconference or teleconference, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the recommended safety precautions.

If a Belviq MDL is established, cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide will be transferred to one court for management, and series of early “bellwether” trials designed to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if Belviq cancer settlements or another resolution is not reached following the MDL proceedings, each individual Belviq case may later be returned to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial in the future.

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