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Lawsuit Over Belviq Cancer Diagnosis Allowed To Move Forward on Design Defect Claims

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A federal judge has rejected an attempt by drug makers to dismiss a lawsuit over a cancer diagnosis from Belviq, clearing the way for litigation involving the recalled diet drug to move forward.

Belviq (lorcaserin) was introduced as a new weight-loss medications in 2012, following years of problems linked to earlier prescription diet drugs. However, early last year the FDA required the drug makers to issue a Belviq recall after identifying an increased incidence of cancer among users of the medication in post-marketing study data.

Over the past few months, a number of Belviq lawsuits have been filed by former users who allege that cancer diagnosed in recent years was a result of the diet drug. One of those claims was filed by Stephanie Fuller, of Louisiana, who developed breast cancer after using the drug from August 2018 to October 2018.

Eisai Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals, the defunct drug’s manufacturers, filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Fuller failed to sufficiently allege breach of warranty, manufacturing defect, and design defect claims.

The motion was heard by U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk in New Orleans, who agreed that the breach of warranty and manufacturing defect claims were not adequately filed and dismissed those claims. However, he refused to dismiss the entire complaint and determined the defective design complaints were sufficiently filed, allowing the lawsuit to move forward.

“Even if the plaintiffs did not allege precisely how the dangers of Belviq’s design outweighed the defendants’ burden in creating a similar, less-dangerous drug, that would not doom their claim at the motion-to-dismiss stage,” Judge Africk wrote in his opinion (PDF), issued on January 15. “The plaintiffs must plead enough only to ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level. The Court finds that they have.”

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.

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