Why Are People Filing Belviq Lawsuits?
Eisai, Inc. has been confronted with lawsuits for its Belviq medication after the FDA identified an increased risk of the drug allegedly causing or exacerbating addictive behaviors such as compulsive gambling or viewing pornography. It has additionally been linked to serious medical issues such as diabetes, stroke, and tardive dyskinesia–a disorder that causes uncontrollable movements of the body.
How Many Belviq Lawsuits Have Been Filed?
Thousands of Belviq lawsuits have been filed and joined into multi-district (MDL) or multi-county litigation (MCL). Specifically, such cases have been filed in New Jersey, Florida, and California. The MDL and MCL suits have sought damages due to the compulsive behavior conditions associated with Belviq use.
Other lawsuits regarding medical conditions such as diabetes and tardive dyskinesia that may have been linked to Belviq usage have been dismissed by judges.
What Belviq Lawsuit Settlements Have There Been?
In 2018 the Belviq MDL in Florida, overseen by Judge Casey Rodgers, reached an undisclosed settlement amount. By March 2019, 2,430 of the cases in the Florida MDL were pending settlement. Additionally, the claims in New Jersey and California reached similar settlements.
What Is Belviq?
Belviq is a brand name of the drug lorcaserin and is a weight-loss drug developed by Arena Pharmaceuticals and later marketed by the Japanese pharmaceutical company, Eisai. Lorcaserin was in use in the United States starting in 2012 and was withdrawn from the market in 2020 after it had been used in 8 million prescriptions.
What Is Belviq Used To Treat?
Belviq (lorcaserin) was a serotonin stimulant medication used for long-term weight loss and management which worked by interacting with the serotonin 2c receptor to produce a feeling of fullness. It was approved to be used in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet and exercise regimen in obese patients and overweight patients who have weight-related medical conditions.
Body mass index (BMI) is a weight-to-height measurement used in determining a need for weight management. A normal BMI is considered to be 18.5 to 24.9 kg/ m².
Belviq was intended for patients with BMI levels of:
- 30 kg/m² or greater (obese)
- 27 kg/m² or greater (overweight) if other weight-related conditions exist such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes
Who Marketed Belviq in the United States?
Eisai, Inc. is a global biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan with U.S. headquarters in New York City, New York. As one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, it develops medicines for various medical conditions, including cancer, HIV, heart disease, diabetes, and mental illnesses.
Who Manufactures Belviq?
The original manufacturing of Belviq was done by Arena Pharmaceuticals at a facility in Switzerland. Arena Pharmaceuticals is an American biopharmaceutical company acquired by Pfizer in 2022. Although Arena was the original manufacturer of Belviq, they ceased manufacturing the product in 2017, leaving Eisai to handle all marketing and manufacturing of the product until its withdrawal in 2020..
What Types of Cancer Are Linked to Belviq Use?
Extended use of Belviq increased the risk of cancers including:
- Colorectal cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Lung cancer
The FDA made an announcement on February 13, 2020, stating that the risks of Belviq outweighed any continued benefits and included recommendations that patients using Belviq and Belviq XR stop taking the medications. The FDA did not recommend additional testing at that time but advised patients to talk to their healthcare providers about other medications or methods of weight loss treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
- Changes in bowel movements that last for more than a few days (diarrhea, constipation)
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Cramping and abdominal pain
- Blood in stool, making the stool look dark brown or black
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
What Are the Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?
- Jaundice or Jaundice-like symptoms (dark urine, light-colored stool, itchy skin)
- Belly or back pain
- Weight loss and poor appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Gallbladder or liver enlargement
- Blood clots
What Are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?
Lung cancer has early symptoms that are more common such as:
- Loss of appetite and unexplained weight lost
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm
- Infections like bronchitis and pneumonia that reoccurs or won’t go away
- New onset wheezing
- Shortness of breath
When lung cancer begins to spread, it’s possible to experience these symptoms:
- Bone pain in the back or hips
- Headaches, weakness in arms or legs, dizziness, and other nervous system changes
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck or above the collarbone
What Are the Side Effects of Belviq?
Like all medications, Belviq had a number of common side effects which are mild-to-moderate, however, some adverse events may be more serious or even life-threatening.
Common Belviq side effects may have included:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Diarrhea or constipation
Serious Belviq side effects may have included:
- Cognitive impairment – memory loss, attention deficits, confusion, and sleepiness may impair the ability to perform normal activities. Caution should be used when driving or operating machinery.
- Psychiatric disorders – hallucinations, dissociation, and euphoria may occur in some patients, but others may experience depression or worsening depression, suicidal thoughts, or behaviors. Healthcare providers should closely monitor patients for symptoms of psychiatric disorders.
- Serotonin syndrome – occurs when serotonin levels in the brain are too high and may be worsened when other serotonin medications are taken at the same time including antidepressants.
Belviq was recalled due to a link to certain types of cancer including:
- Pancreatic cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Lung cancer
- Other cancers
In some cases, these cancers may result in death.
What Are the Symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome?
Symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome may include:
- Changes in mental status
- High blood pressure
- Heart rate or rhythm changes
- High temperature
- Movement disorders
In some cases, serotonin syndrome may be serious or even life-threatening, and sudden or severe symptoms should be treated as a medical emergency.
What Types of Treatment Are Available for Conditions Associated With Belviq Use?
For most patients experiencing Belviq-related conditions, doctors have ceased the use of the medication to reduce or eliminate symptoms. Unfortunately, while cessation of use may stop further side effects, it can not reverse the damage that has already been incurred during the use of the medication.
Has Belviq Been Recalled?
In January 2020, the FDA alerted health professionals and the public that results from a clinical trial showed a possibility of increased risk of cancer in those who took Belviq. Though clinical trials were still being assessed and there was no certainty to these findings, the medication was withdrawn from the market in February 2020. Healthcare officials were asked to assess situations to see if there were other treatments that patients could use instead of lorcaserin; patients taking lorcaserin were asked to talk to their healthcare professionals about other avenues of treatment.
Has the FDA Updated Its Belviq Warning?
The FDA updated its announcement in February 2020, requesting that Belviq be withdrawn from the U.S. market due to the clinical trials showing an increased occurrence of cancer. The FDA advised patients to stop taking lorcaserin and talk with their healthcare professionals.
The FDA also listed the best way to dispose of lorcaserin:
- Mix the pills with an unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds; do not crush them.
- Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
- Throw away the container in your trash at home.
- Remove or delete all personal information on the prescription label of empty medicine bottles or packaging, then throw away or recycle them.
The FDA did not recommend any special screening for patients who have taken lorcaserin and advised patients to talk to their healthcare professionals.