Lawsuit Alleges Thyroid Cancer Caused By Belviq Diet Drug

Plaintiff was unware of recalled diet drug's link to increased thyroid cancer risk until several years after her diagnosis.

Eisai, Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals face a product liability lawsuit brought by a woman who indicates she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer caused by Belviq, a diet drug that was recalled from the market last year due to concerns that it has carcinogenic side effects.

Connie Garrett filed the complaint (PDF) in the Superior Court of New Jersey for Bergen County on December 22, indicating that she took Belviq from November 2016 through June 2017, and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in January 2018, which she indicates was caused by the diet drug.

Belviq was approved by the FDA in 2012, as the first new diet pill allowed on the market in the United States in years. Although the medication was introduced after a series of recalls and problems were associated with other weight-loss medications, the lawsuit indicates the drug makers did not disclose they failed to properly test or study Belviq for cancer risks, rendering warnings provided with the medication inadequate.

“Plaintiff’s use of Belviq caused or significantly contributed to her development of thyroid cancer, which has permanently changed her life,” the lawsuit states. “By reason of the foregoing, Plaintiff had to undergo significant treatment and now requires constant and continuous medical monitoring and treatment due to the defective nature of Belviq.”

The lawsuit notes that Garrett could not have reasonably discovered that Belviq caused her thyroid cancer until at least January 2020, when the FDA announced that clinical trial data had connected the diet drug to an increased risk of cancer.

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 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 pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer and lung cancer. Several weeks after the FDA’s January 2020 warning, it was determined the weight loss drug needed to be removed from the market and a Belviq recall was announced in February 2020.

The case filed by Garrett joins hundreds of similar lawsuits filed over the past two years by former users who allege Belviq caused cancers to develop. 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 may be diagnosed with cases of thyroid cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and other injuries.

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