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A Louisiana woman indicates the side effects of the diet drug Belviq caused her to parotid gland cancer, according to allegations raised in a recently filed lawsuit.
The complaint (PDF) was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey on February 11, by Deborah Crawford and her husband, Bradley, indicating that Eisai, Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. failed to warn users about the cancer risk associated with the new-generation diet drug, which was removed from the market last year.
Crawford, 48, indicates she began taking Belviq in December 2017, and used the drug for weight loss until about August 2018, at which point she was diagnosed with parotid gland cancer, which has left her with severe and permanent personal injuries. However, she was unaware of the link between the diet drug and cancer until February 2020, when a Belviq recall was issued by the manufacturers.
Belviq (lorcaserin) was introduced as a weight-loss treatment in 2012, as the first new diet pill approved in years, following a steady stream of recalls and problems with other medications. However, the FDA required the diet drug makers to issue a recall after identifying an increased incidence of cancer among users of the medication in post-marketing study data.
“The injuries and damages sustained by Plaintiff, Deborah Crawford, were caused by Defendants’ Belviq,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs did not know and could not have known that the injuries they suffered were caused by Belviq until after the date Belviq was recalled from the market on February 13, 2020 and Plaintiffs came to learn of the recall.”
Belviq Cancer Risk
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 that the weight loss drug needed to be removed from the market.
Even before then, at the time the medication was approved, the FDA required the drug makers to conduct a five year follow up study involving about 12,000 participants to evaluate the potential heart risks associated with the medication. However, researchers identified at least 462 individuals treated with Belviq who were diagnosed with 520 different primary cancers over a median follow up time of three years and three months.
The lawsuit joins a number of diet drug lawsuits filed over the last year by former users of Belviq 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.