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Litigation Spotlight: Article #5

Mass Tort of the Month: Belviq

Appetite_Suppression

With courts across the country beginning to open after COVID-19 related shutdowns, attorneys nationwide are faced with navigating the new landscape of the legal profession in a post-pandemic world. Courts are relying heavily on technology as means to press forward with litigation while still limiting person-to-person contact and one thing is for certain—the pandemic has not stopped plaintiffs and their attorneys from seeking justice.

Class action and mass tort cases continue to move through the judicial system despite the obstacles created by COVID-19. A new litigation that is likely to make headlines in 2020 with a rise in newly filed lawsuits is Belviq.

Approved by the FDA on June 27, 2012, Lorcaserin Hydrochloride is a prescription weight loss drug under the name brand, Belviq. Notably, Belviq was the first weight loss drug to be the approved by the FDA for 13 years. The drug is manufactured by Arena Pharmaceutical and marketed and distributed by Eisai Inc., both named as defendants in lawsuits concerning the drug. Intended for patients who are morbidly obese and seeking to lose weight for health (rather than cosmetic) reasons, Belviq is available in two forms: a regular dose taken two times a day and Belviq XR, an extended-release tablet taken once daily. Combined with a low-calorie diet, patients taking Belviq are told they should lose around 5% of their body weight with in the first 12 weeks of taking the drug.

Belviq is an appetite suppressant that works by activating serotonin receptors in the brain. In contrast to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (“SSRIs”), used in anti-depressants to increase serotonin levels by blocking or inhibiting the reabsorption or reuptake of serotonin in the body, the serotonin in Belviq simply enhances a patients feeling of satisfaction that translates to a feeling of fullness after a meal, which reduces overeating.

Belviq was advertised as having a range of lower-risk side effects including constipation, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, headache and nausea. However in February 2020, the FDA requested that the drug be voluntarily withdrawn from the American market due to rising concerns over its potential link to the risk of cancer.

Click here to read other Mass Tort of the Month articles.

In the February 13, 2020, announcement, the FDA indicated that when Belviq was initially approved in 2012, the drug’s manufacturer was required to conduct a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate the risk of cardiovascular problems. A clinical trial was conducted in 12,000 patients over a five-year time frame and the resulting study found that patients taking Belviq had an increased risk of developing cancer compared to patients taking the placebo. The FDA reported that a wide range of cancers were observed in the participants of the study, most frequently pancreatic, colorectal or lung cancer.

In its announcement of its decision to request a voluntary removal of the drug, the FDA said that it didn’t believe the risks associated with Belviq outweighed the benefits of the drug based on its review of the clinical trial. Doctors are being advised to cease prescribing and dispensing Belviq to patients and contact patients who have already been prescribed the drug to inform them of the increased risk of cancer associated with its use.

Lawsuits against Eisai Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals are still in early stages.


Mass tort and class action litigation can result in a positive impact on the lives of the large segment of people who have been injured by the actions of large pharmaceutical companies. It can be a significant undertaking to enter into a new area of law, especially one as complex as mass torts or class actions, and firms need to ensure they have adequate resources to do so.

Counsel Financial is a litigation funder who understands the realm of major litigation. Its team of attorneys are well-versed in the myriad of suits and multi-district litigations moving through the court systems and can help you to leverage the value in your case portfolio. Counsel Financial was founded by plaintiff attorneys who truly understand the practice of law and the complexities and uncertainties that accompany a contingent-fee practice. Working capital is a necessity for firm growth and entrance into mass tort and class action litigation.

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Categories: Litigation Spotlight

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