Colorectal Cancer Caused By Belviq, Lawsuit Over Discontinued Diet Pill Alleges

Side effects of the diet pill led to a recall in 2020. However, new lawsuits continue to be filed over cancer caused by Belviq.

A recently filed product liability lawsuit alleges that the side effects of Belviq caused rectal bleeding and a colorectal cancer diagnosis, following use of the diet pill before it was discontinued and removed from the market due to long-term health concerns.

Shejuan McKibbins filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on January 14, claiming that Eisai, Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. knew or should have known that users faced an increased risk of cancer caused by Belviq, but failed to provide adequate warning to consumers and allowed the weight loss pill to remain on the market for years.

Belviq was introduced in 2012, as the first new diet pill on the market in the United States in years, following a string of serious safety concerns linked to prior medications. However, McKibbins indicates that the drug makers failed to adequately evaluate the potential risk of long-term side effects like cancer from Belviq, and aggressively marketed the medication as safe and effective.

According to the lawsuit, McKibbins, of Texas, first began using Belviq in September 2016, and continued to take the diet pill until December 2017. Following use of the medication, McKibbins claims she suffered transmural inflammation with abscess, fistula formations, non-necrotizing granulomas, and was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, in December 2018. She also has developed Hematochezia (rectal bleeding), a change in bowel habits, and has required invasive colonoscopies as a result.

“Despite the fact that Defendants knew or should have known that Belviq caused cancer, Defendants sold Belviq to Plaintiff and/or her prescribing physician without properly alerting physicians and their patients, including Plaintiff and her prescribing physician, of the cancer risk,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants knew or should have known that consumers such as Plaintiff, Shejuan mcKibbins, would foreseeably suffer injury as a result of their failure to exercise ordinary care by warning about the risk of cancer or warning that Belviq had not been adequately tested.”

The FDA required a Belviq recall in February 2020, after post marketing study data identified a potential cancer risk. However, according to the lawsuit filed by Reynolds, the drug makers 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.

McKibbins’ case joins hundreds of similar Belviq cancer lawsuits filed over the past two years, most involving claims by former users diagnosed with kidney cancer, thyroid cancer, pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer or other injuries blamed on side effects of the medication.

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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