Belviq, a drug approved in 2012, alongside some other, similar weight loss geared drugs to treat obesity or excessive weight, was pulled from the market by Eisai, Inc. after a strong recommendation by the FDA to do so.
The company issued a statement stating that they still believe that the benefits of the drug outweigh the slight increase in the risk of cancer, but pulled the drug voluntarily.
The FDA went on to warn patients to stop taking Belviq immediately and dispose of any leftover pills. They also advised that the users quickly contact their physician to figure out a safer, more suitable replacement.
The company also pulled the extended-version of the drug, Belviq XR off the market as well.
After a 5 year, 12,000 patient study of the potential increase of heart problems, as mandated by the FDA to meet compliance and approve Belviq for patient use, the drug was approved to be purchased on the market.
As to the drug’s effectiveness, during testing, it was found that half of those taking Belviq lost at least 5% of their body weight over the first year, and almost a quarter lost up to 10%.
The drug was recommended for those with a BMI of 30 for adults, or 27 for those who had other conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other conditions associated with elevated heart risk.
In a more recent study, however, it was found that 7.7% of patients who were taking Belviq were diagnosed with cancer in contrast to the 7.1% who developed it in a comparative group of patients taking dummy pills.
While particular types of cancers were reported in association with Belviq, the correlation seemed to be only to patients who have taken the drug for an extended period of time, so the FDA did not recommend any additional cancer screenings for anyone who had been taking the medication.
Belviq , along with some other drugs contemporary to its release such as Contrave and Qysmia had struggled to make good sales due to the steep $200 – $300 cost associated with them.
Qusmia yielded greater weight loss than Belviq, as did Contrave, though the latter was found to carry a stronger risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior.
This is not a new trend with drugs aimed at weight loss. These drugs tend to increase heart rate and cause extra stress on the person’s heart valves. Several older drugs were pulled from the market years ago for similar reasons.
In 1997, the FDA pulled a diet pill named “Phen-Phen” from shelves due to findings of similar heart-related complications. The FDA is now applying the same rules to Belviq, though for different risk reasons.