Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked the Japanese drug maker Eisai Inc. to pull its weight loss drug Belviq from the market due to concerns the drug can slightly increase the user’s risk of cancer. The extended release version of the drug is also being pulled. Eisai issued a statement saying it withdrew the drug voluntarily but disagrees with the FDA’s interpretation of the data. It said it still believes Belviq has benefits that outweigh the risk.
According to the FDA, however, patients should immediately stop taking Belviq, safely dispose of any remaining pills, and then contact your doctor to discuss alternative strategies. The FDA has also asked doctors to proactively contact their patients about stopping the drug.
Effective at weight loss, Belviq increases cancer risk
Belviq is one of several drugs approved in the past 15 years to help people struggling with obesity-related health issues or excess weight. While many weight loss drugs are stimulants, those can sometimes cause heart problems. Belviq is not a stimulant and was the first weight loss drug shown to help people lose and keep off weight for several years without increasing the risk of heart problems.
Before it would approve Belviq, the FDA required Eisai to conduct a patient safety study specifically considering heart safety. The five-year, 12,000-patient study did not find increased risk of heart problems with Belviq, according to the Associated Press.
However, the FDA recently completed an analysis of that study looking for increased cancer risks, and it found them. That analysis found that 7.7% of Belviq users developed cancer, compared to 7.1% of those given a placebo. This increased risk of cancer was only found after extended use of Belviq.
However, the Belviq users in the study developed a range of cancers, although it is difficult to know how many were directly caused by Belviq. The Belviq users experienced increased rates of lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancers compared to patients given the placebo.
There may be circumstances in which using Belviq outweighs the incrreased risk of cancer. Each patient should consult with their doctor about the benefits and risks.
The FDA’s decision to pull the drug from the market, however, indicates that its risks outweigh the benefits for the average patient.
If you have taken Belviq for an extended period of time and have developed cancer, discuss your situation with an attorney who has experience in pharmaceutical product liability.