The manufacturer of Belviq, a weight-loss drug that had been recalled due to its risks in causing cancer, is now facing a class-action lawsuit filed by a Hudson Valley woman. Barbara Zottola of Warwick claims the manufacturer Eisai Inc., knew of the risks posed by the drug and continued to push it into the market for consumption.
The company, based in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, recalled the drug from the market in February after being ordered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Zottola was not satisfied by the move and she believes the damage had already been done at the time of the recall.
Belviq is a prescription weight-loss drug that its maker claims reduces the user’s appetite by increasing their feeling of fullness. Most insurance companies do not cover the charges for using the drug, which costs roughly $300 a month.
Two other companies were named in the lawsuit apart from Eisai. They include; Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc., a San Diego-based company that developed and licensed lorcaserin, and CVS Health Co., the place where Zottola claims she bought the drug.
Belviq, a brand name for lorcaserin, had been on the market since 2013. Issues about its safety had been raised in 2010 when Arena applied for the approval of its use. Lorcaserin was feared to cause cancer, and it also did not work well. A 2007 study of lorcaserin by Arena allegedly found that it caused rare and aggressive tumours in rats. Arena and Eisai then reapplied for lorcaserin use in weight loss under the brand name Belviq in 2012, to which the FDA approved in 2013.
Eisai was then required by the FDA to conduct clinical studies to properly analyze the risks of Belviq in causing strokes and heart attacks. The FDA, in the meantime, approved the use of the drug while the studies were ongoing. Recent findings showed that the drug did not increase heart problems but had a significant risk of causing cancer. Patients who used the drug were more likely to be diagnosed with lung, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers than patients who used a placebo. This finding prompted the agency to stop the use of Belviq.
In her lawsuit, Zottola claims that Belviq would never have been approved for use if Arena and Eisai had disclosed their findings of cancer risks on rats in the 2007 study.