People who took the diet pill Belviq were more likely to develop lung cancer compared to people who did not take the drug, according to a review of long-term study trial data.
Belviq, which contains the active ingredient lorcaserin, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June 2012 as a long-term treatment for overweight and obese adults. The approval was contingent on the drug manufacturer collecting long-term data to rule out any risk of heart problems. Previous prescription diet pills had been pulled from the market due to heart risks, and regulators wanted to be sure the new drug didn’t pose similar health risks.
When the CAMELLIA-TIMI 61 trial ended, drug owner Eisai was proud to announce that Belviq didn’t appear to increase the risk for heart attack or strokes in patients. However, the data did show that patients treated with the drug had a higher occurrence of cancer compared to patients treated with a placebo.
Of the 12,000 study participants, there were 520 cancers among patients in the Belviq group compared to 470 cancers in the group that did not take the drug. This was enough to raise red flags with the FDA. On April 1, 2020, the agency announced it was pulling Belviq and Belviq XR, an extended-release version of the drug, from the market due to safety concerns.
A closer review of the data revealed Belviq users were more likely to develop certain cancers. According to the data, among the 12,000 study participants, 40 Belviq users developed lung cancer compared to just 25 in the group that did not take it.
“The cancer-related safety signal from nonclinical studies supports the plausibility of an excess cancer risk from lorcaserin, and the consistency of cancer findings in CAMELLIA-TIMI 61 and the robustness of sensitivity analyses further support a causative effect,” wrote John Sharretts, MD, of the FDA’s Office Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products, and colleagues at the agency. “The increased risk of various cancer types associated with lorcaserin in the clinical study reflects the pattern seen in nonclinical studies.”
Belviq users also had a higher incidence of colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, and leukemia. Plus more users died from cancer during the study period compared to non-users.
“The higher incidence of cancer-related death in the lorcaserin group is also troubling,” the group wrote. “Although we cannot exclude the possibility that the observed imbalances are due to chance, conducting another trial to confirm or refute the signal isn’t feasible.”
If you or a loved one has taken Belviq and been diagnosed with cancer, we would like to talk with you. Roger Smith, Ryan Duplechin and Melissa Prickett, attorneys with Beasley Allen Law Firm, are currently investigating individual cases of pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer and lung cancer in patients who have been treated with Belviq.