The prescription weight loss drug Belviq (lorcaserin) has been pulled off the shelves at the request of the FDA due to a potential link to cancer, as reported by Drug Watch and other outlets. Belviq has been associated with increased rates of lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancer, and several lawsuits have been filed. Here’s what you need to know.
Belviq was initially brought to market in 2012, the first prescription drug in 13 years to be approved by the FDA to treat obesity. Unlike being overweight, obesity is a chronic condition with potentially dangerous levels of body fat. It can increase your risk for serious disease, from certain kinds of cancer to diabetes and heart disease. Belviq in particular was used with patients who had other serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
The drug works by sending the neurotransmitter serotonin to receptors in our brain. The receptors trigger feelings of fullness, and therefore reduce appetite. Within 12 weeks of taking Belviq, and following a low-calorie diet, patients typically lose five percent of their body weight.
Mild side effects were common in the initial clinical trial, ranging from headache and dizziness to fatigue and nausea. There were also some serious side effects: mental changes, cognitive impairment, psychiatric disorders and priapism.
When the FDA first approved Belviq, the agency required the manufacturer Eisai, Inc. to conduct a study to evaluate cardiovascular risk of the drug. Preliminary data from that five-year study showed no cardio concern but an overall increased occurrence of cancer with the most prevalent being pancreatic, colorectal, and lung.
On February 13th, the FDA asked Eisai, Inc. to voluntarily remove the drug, stating that the potential risk of cancer outweighs the benefits of the medication. While it has complied with the FDA’s request, the manufacturer contends that its product is safe to use. The agency advised consumers to stop taking Belviq and to safely dispose of the unused drug. There are no special cancer screenings needed.
Those who have developed cancer have filed lawsuits against the manufacturer to help cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs. Such lawsuits can be complex and may require an experienced eye. If you would like to talk to an attorney experienced in catastrophic personal injury, please reach out to us. Our firm is recognized as a leader in litigating catastrophic personal injury cases in Philadelphia.