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Weight loss pills spill from a bottle, with a blue measuring tape in the foreground

A New Jersey man recently filed a new Belviq lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey against drug manufacturers Eisai Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals. He claims that after taking Belviq for weight loss, he suffered from serious injuries.

What is Belviq?

Belviq (lorcaserin hydrochloride) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on June 27, 2012, to help overweight and obese patients lose weight. The FDA cleared it for use in adult patients with a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30 or adult patients with a BMI greater than or equal to 27 and at least one weight-related comorbid condition. The FDA later approved Belviq XR, an extended-release tablet, on July 15, 2016, for the same indication.

Arena Pharmaceuticals and Eisai jointly launched Belviq in the U.S. in 2012, with Arena manufacturing it and Eisai as the exclusive distributor. In 2017, Eisai purchased the global rights to develop and market the drug from Arena.

Belviq is the first in a class of oral selective serotonin 5HT2c receptor agonists and is available by prescription in oral tablets at doses of 10mg taken twice daily or 20 mg extended-release taken once daily.

Plaintiff Blames Belviq for his Pancreatic Cancer

According to his complaint, the plaintiff’s doctor prescribed Belviq for weight loss and diet control in April 2015. That doctor continued to prescribe the medication until he passed away in September 2018. His partner renewed the plaintiff’s prescriptions, which lasted until January 2019.

From 2015 through 2019, the plaintiff continued to take Belviq, unaware that it might increase his risk of cancer. But then in July 2020, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After learning more about the drug and the Belviq recall, he came to believe that Belviq was responsible for his diagnosis.

After Study Shows Increased Risk of Cancer, FDA Demand Belviq Recall

On February 13, 2020, the FDA issued a safety communication alerting healthcare providers and the public to the fact that it had requested the withdrawal of Belviq from the market.

The FDA took this action after examining the results of a study it had ordered way back when it first approved Belviq for sale. At that time, it set a condition upon that approval—Belviq manufacturers had to conduct a clinical trial to evaluate the risk of heart-related problems in patients taking the medication.

Eisai complied with the FDA’s condition and tested the product on about 12,000 participants. They were overweight or obese and had established cardiovascular disease or were at least 50 years old for men and 55 years for women with type 2 diabetes plus at least one additional cardiovascular risk factor.

The researchers followed the patients for around 3 years as they took either Belviq or a placebo. The results showed that there was no significant difference between the two when it came to cardiovascular health problems. There was, however, a difference in cancer occurrence.

A total of 462 (7.7 percent) of the patients treated with Belviq were diagnosed with cancer—including pancreatic cancer—versus 423 (7.1 percent) of those taking the placebo. The longer the patients took Belviq, the more of an imbalance there was.

Based on these results, the FDA requested the recall of the drug. The plaintiff brings counts of design defect, failure to warn, and breach of warranties, and seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

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