When the prescription diet pill Belviq hit the market in June 2013, the nonprofit consumer research and advocacy group Consumer Reports advised the public not to take it. Seven years later, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was pulling the drug from the market due to cancer concerns.
Belviq and the extended release version Belviq XR are approved to treat obese adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater and overweight adults with a BMI of 27 or greater with at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes. Belviq contains the active ingredient lorcaserin, which works by activating the serotonin 2C receptor in the brain and is believed to help you feel full after eating small amounts of food. The drug was intended to be a long-term weight management treatment.
In 2013, Consumer Reports’ medical advisors reviewed the data on the new diet pill and advised consumers to “skip the drug.” The reason? Slim results. “People who take the drug for a year can expect to lose just 3% to 3.7% of their weight, and may gain the weight back, research suggests,” the nonprofit said.
Consumer Reports also warned about “risks galore,” namely headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth and constipation. People with diabetes, specifically, were at risk for hypoglycemia, back pain and cough. And because there were concerns that Belviq could cause a slowed heartbeat and heart valve problems, the FDA required the manufacturer to conduct a long-term study on users to determine if those who used the diet pill were at greater risks for heart problems like heart attacks and strokes.
But Consumer Reports also hinted to a possible bigger problem. Belviq was initially rejected by the FDA because tumors were seen in laboratory animals exposed to the drug. “Moreover,” Consumer Reports cautioned, “the European Medicines Agency (EMA) was so concerned about the drug’s safety that it rejected the drug.” The EMA’s cancer concerns ultimately led the drug’s manufacturer to withdraw its application for marketing Belviq in Europe.
Fast forward seven years, shortly after the results of Belviq’s required long-term study on heart risks were unveiled. The study found that Belviq users were not at increased risk for heart attacks or strokes. But what the data did show is that people who used Belviq had a higher occurrence of cancer than non-users of Belviq — 7.7% compared to 7.1%. This translated to one additional case of cancer among 470 Belviq users for one year compared to non-users. The cancers most often seen were pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer and lung cancer.
On Feb. 13, 2020, seven years after Belviq’s release, the FDA ordered the drug removed from the market due to the increased risk of cancer.
If you used Belviq and then were diagnosed with cancer, you should talk to an attorney. You may have a case against the manufacturer. Attorneys with Beasley Allen Law firm are currently investigating cases of pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer and lung cancer in patients who have been treated with Belviq. Please contact Roger Smith, Ryan Duplechin or Melissa Prickett to discuss a possible claim, or fill out our contact form on this website for a free consultation.