Weight Loss Drug Belviq Pulled from Market Over Cancer Risk

Japan’s Eisai Inc., the manufacturer of the weight loss drug Belviq (lorcaserin) recently pulled the drug from the market at the request of federal regulators due to an increased risk of cancer. Notable in particular were elevated risks of Pancreatic Cancer, Colorectal Cancer, and Lung Cancer. Early testing showed that test rats taking the drug developed tumors. Nonetheless, Belviq was pushed to the US market in June 2013.

The FDA recently announced patients should stop taking Belviq immediately, dispose of leftover pills and contact their doctor for advice on alternatives. The agency also told doctors to notify their patients to stop taking the drug.

Side Effects Linked to Use of Weight Loss Drug Belviq

Weight loss drug Belviq has been linked to an increased risk of cancer

  • Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Heart valve problems
  • Heart valve damage
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Anemia or low white blood cell count
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome
  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Male breast growth (gynecomastia)
  • Galactorrhea (female breast milk production)
  • Wrongful death

History of Belviq

This weight-loss drug works by activating receptors in the brain to promote the feeling of being full leading to decreased food consumption.

Ever since Belviq entered the market in the United States, and even before it was approved, there have been concerns about the potential for the drug to cause cancer and other serious problems in users. In fact, the release of Belviq was originally rejected in 2010 due to the fact that rodent testing had found a higher rate of brain and breast cancer associated with the weight loss drug. However, Arena Pharmaceuticals convinced federal regulators that the tumors found in the rats were specific to rodents and not likely to affect humans and the drug was approved for sale in the United States two years after the initial rejection. At that time, the FDA noted the following:

“When approving [Belviq], we required the drug manufacturer, Eisai Inc., to conduct a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate the risk of heart-related problems. In this trial, which was conducted in approximately 12,000 participants over 5 years, more patients taking [Belviq] were diagnosed with cancer compared to patients taking placebo, which is an inactive treatment. Our evaluation of this potential signal is ongoing, and at this time it is uncertain if [Belviq] increases the risk of cancer.”

Despite years of growing concerns about the potential risk of cancer from Belviq treatment, it wasn’t until January 2020 that the FDA issued a drug safety communication warning that clinical trial data had shown a possible link between the use of Belviq and an increased risk of cancer. Based on this potential risk, the FDA advised healthcare providers to “consider if the benefits of taking lorcaserin are likely to exceed the potential risks when deciding whether to prescribe or continue patients on lorcaserin.”

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