Breastcancer.org, a nonprofit resource providing information and support to people with breast cancer, is warning its readers that the prescription diet pill Belviq (lorcaserin) and the extended release version, Belviq XR, have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, and that users should stop taking the drug and talk to their doctor right away. Although the drug has not been linked to breast cancer, the organization felt compelled to warn due to uncertainty about the risks.

“The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) said the way Belviq may increase cancer risk is unclear. It’s also not clear how much Belviq may increase cancer risk,” the resource said in a post. “Still, the FDA believes that the risk of Belviq outweighs its benefits.

Belviq was first approved for sale in the United States by the FDA in June 2012 for long-term weight management in overweight and obese adults. Its approval was based on clinical trials involving fewer than 8,000 participants who used the medication for 52 to 102 weeks.

The FDA was hesitant at first to approve the drug based on tests that showed laboratory mice exposed to Belviq developed mammary and lung tumors. The agency was also leery of diet pills in general, as previous treatments had been pulled from the market due to heart risks. The agency ultimately approved Belviq but required drug maker Eisai to conduct long-term, post-market studies to examine heart risks.

Eisai’s study concluded in June 2018 showing no increased risk of heart attacks or strokes among Belviq users. However there was a higher occurrence of cancer diagnoses among Belviq users – 7.7% compared to 7.1% among nonusers. The FDA said that accounted for one additional cancer diagnoses per 470 patients taking Belviq for one year. The cancers most often seen among Belviq users included pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer and lung cancer.

On Feb. 13, 2020, the FDA called for the withdrawal of Belviq and Belviq XR based on the increased occurrence of cancer among people who used the drug. The agency isn’t recommending people who used Belviq to undergo any special cancer screenings. However, as with anyone regardless of prior Belviq use, standard screening recommendations for cancer should be followed.

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.

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