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Diet Drug Users Seek Consolidation For Belviq Cancer Claims in Federal MDL

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With a growing number of lawsuits being filed throughout the federal court system involving allegations the side effects of Belviq caused cancer, a group of formers users of the recalled diet drug are asking the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate the claims before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

There are currently at least 13 Belviq cancer lawsuits pending in 12 different U.S. District Courts nationwide, each involving similar claims the manufacturers failed to adequately research the medication or provide adequate warnings for users and the medical community. However, the number of claims is expected to increase dramatically in the coming months.

Belviq (lorcaserin) was introduced in 2012, as the first new diet drug approved in years, after a steady stream of recalls and problems associated with other weight loss medications. However, following a large number of reports involving users diagnosed with cancer in post-marketing studies, the FDA required the drug maker to issue a Belviq recall in February 2020.

To help coordinate and manage the growing litigation, a group of plaintiffs joined together to file a motion to transfer (PDF) on April 12, asking that cases pending nationwide be centralized in the Eastern District of Louisiana for discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Known as an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, such consolidation is common in complex pharmaceutical litigation, where a large number of claims have been presented by former users of the same medication, alleging similar injuries. Centralizing the Belviq cancer claims would help avoid duplicative discovery, prevent contradictory rulings from different judges, and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses, and the courts, according to the plaintiffs.

“(I)t does not appear that informal coordination will be able to work for these actions because of, inter alia, the various stages that these cases are in and will continue to be in as new cases are filed and as new and different attorneys become involved,” the motion states.

Belviq Litigation Likely To Increase In Size

The litigation emerged after the controversial diet drug was removed from the market early last year, but many former users are still unaware of the link between Belviq and cancer diagnosed in recent years.

In July 2019, an expert analysis of the CAMEILLIA-TIMI 61 Trial was published by the American College of Cardiology, looking 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.

“It is anticipated that the number of filed cases in federal courts across the country will continue to increase,” according to the motion filed earlier this week. “Upon information and belief, beyond the plaintiffs’ counsel with cases already filed, other plaintiffs’ counsel across the country are investigating many more cases and will likely file additional cases in the near future. Given the overlapping nature of the facts and issues involved as well as the increasing volume of actions filed, Plaintiffs respectfully submit that transfer, centralization, consolidation of all Belviq actions into one multidistrict litigation (MDL)… is warranted.”

The U.S. JPML is expected to consider oral arguments on the motion, including any response filed by the drug maker, during a hearing this summer. The panel will determine whether centralized management is appropriate at this early stage of the litigation, and the most appropriate forum for the pretrial proceedings.

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