Via America’s Lawyer: Back in February 2020, the FDA requested the popular weight-loss drug Belviq be pulled from stores shelves after the medication was linked to increased risks of cancer. More than a year later, it turns out there are even more dangerous side effects that were never disclosed to the public. At the Mass Torts Made Perfect conference in Las Vegas, RT’s Brent Jabbour, filling in for Mike Papantonio, sat down with attorney Stephen Luongo about ongoing litigation against the drug’s manufacturers.
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Mike Papantonio: Back in February of last year, the FDA requested the popular weight loss drug Belviq be pulled from the store shelves after medication was linked to increased risk of cancer. More than a year later, turns out there are even more dangerous side effects that are associated with it. RT’s Brent Jabbour spoke with attorney Stephen Luongo about the ongoing litigate against drug manufacturers.
Brent Jabbour: Stephen, thanks for joining us. Tell us about Belviq first.
Stephen Luongo: Thanks for having me. So Belviq was originally developed in 2012 and it’s a drug that is designed to help with weight loss. And what it does is it actually tricks your brain by changing the serotonin level to make you feel full or have less of an appetite. So that drug was developed by Arena pharmaceuticals in 2012, like I said, and was approved by the FDA in 2012 for its release into the, the general market with the caveat that they needed to do follow up testing. A five year plan was done and then that’s where we’re now seeing the effects of this carcinogens that are coming through the usage of Belviq and the, the painful and long lasting effects.
Brent Jabbour: And so what do we know about this study?
Stephen Luongo: As I said, the study was done over a five year period. They, they had about 14,000 participants in it in which they reviewed the use of Belviq versus a placebo effect. And what they came to is that the patients that were using Belviq acquired or were, were unfortunately diagnosed with cancer up to 8%. So obviously a very high number. Those cancers that were believed to have been caused by Belviq are pancreatic, colon cancer, as well as lung cancer.
Brent Jabbour: And where is the litigation on this right now?
Stephen Luongo: So right now there is what’s called a MDL or a multidistrict litigation being formed, and that’s being formed in Louisiana. They have been filing motions throughout the country, because as, as you know, with this experience and with it being on the market for several years there’s cases throughout the country and what an MDL does is try to help solidify centralize this litigation so that it helps the claimants. It helps the, the court process it for judicial economy and that’s being done right now in Louisiana. The court is ruling or expected to rule on whether or not that creation will go forward in, in, in order to really enhance the litigation, like I said.
Brent Jabbour: And, and is the study the sole reason? I mean, the FDA basically had said, what the regulator said, okay, we’ll approve this with the contingency that you do this study. And, and essentially it seems kinda weird and we’ve talked a little bit about the regulation aspect of a lot of these situations is that the FDA says, yeah, we could put on the case or on the, on the shelves, but we really don’t know everything about it. And so do the regulators have a problem with that?
Stephen Luongo: Well, and, and that’s gonna be the, the interesting point that we find out through the litigation and through discovery is what did the company know and when did they know it because they released a product out into the public, they’ve harmed people. They, they’ve, people have died because of their product that was supposed to help them with weight loss. And we need to know those answers. Those answers need to be answered and, and found out through discovery. We know that for a fact, the FDA did recall the drug last year in 2020. So now it’s off the market. And, and, and hopefully that will help obviously the, the, the general population. But the, the lasting effects are still there. The, the cancerous effects are still there and hopefully discovery will show us whether or not this company knew their product was harmful.
Brent Jabbour: And so, Stephen, there’s also these other side effects that we’re looking at here as well. Tell us about that.
Stephen Luongo: So what they’re, what we’re seeing is increased heart rates, nausea, vomiting. There’s, there’s been mental and, and mental health issues that have been affected, or at least claimed to be participating from the, the Belviq, from the drug. And, and as we’ve talked about before in, in programs, the FDA approved this drug with the caveat, hey, test it later. So really when we come down to are our regulators protecting us and are they doing a good job at it?
Brent Jabbour: Well, I was gonna say, is that a problem? And do we see that regularly when it comes to the approval of drugs that the FDA says, yeah, put it on the shelf, sell it to the general public, make a profit on it and we’ll figure it all out later?
Stephen Luongo: I mean, you would think not. And as a public, we wanna believe that our regulators are there to protect us, but we have a drug, as we’ve mentioned several times that is changing the chemical makeup of your brain and that they say, okay, you’re approved for now, go test it later. To me, that’s a red flag. That’s a problem.
Brent Jabbour: Well, and it seems like also when regulators are approving drugs, when they’re approving any medical device, they’re also saying, hey, we are not doing our own research. We don’t actually look into this. We’re relying on you or other outside entities. Correct?
Stephen Luongo: Yeah. And that, that is correct. And that’s how it’s been operated and, and, and hopefully through the continued litigation, that things like that will change.
Brent Jabbour: Stephen Luongo, thank you so much.
Stephen Luongo: Thank you.
Mike Papantonio: That’s all for tonight. Find us on Twitter and at Facebook on facebook.com/rtamericaslawyer. Also stream us live on YouTube and be sure to check RT’s new portable app where you can watch all your favorite shows. I’m Mike Papantonio, this is America’s Lawyer where every week we tell you the stories that corporate media is ordered not to tell because their advertisers won’t let ’em and because their political associations don’t allow for it. Have a great night.