A Florida federal judge trimmed a woman’s lawsuit alleging Eisai Inc. and Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s recalled diet drug Belviq caused her breast cancer, dismissing claims of fraudulent misrepresentation but allowing design-defect allegations to move forward.
U.S. District Judge Anne Conway said Colleen Scala, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2017, plausibly pled Belviq was “unreasonably dangerous” due to its active ingredient, lorcaserin — which has been linked to increased instances of tumors in rats.
But Scala needed to point to more than just a television commercial for the drug that failed to mention cancer as a side effect in order to maintain a pleading that the companies engaged in negligent misrepresentation.
The court’s decision largely kept intact Scala’s lawsuit, which is one of several Eisai and Arena face following Belviq’s removal from the market in February 2020. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had requested its removal. Scala’s case is one of many that might be rolled into a nationwide multidistrict litigation.
Arena won approval for the drug in 2012, and Eisai acquired it in 2016. It was the first time the FDA had approved a weight-loss drug since 1999.
Judge Conway dismissed the negligent misrepresentation claims without prejudice, giving Scala until Jan. 5, 2022, to file an amended complaint to fix the deficiencies.
Scala pointed to preclinical trial two-year studies conducted by the companies that identified lorcaserin as a possible carcinogen, as there were observed increases in mammary tumors among male and female rats that were exposed.
But to carry forward the misrepresentation claim, Scala needed to show she or her physician relied on false statements or omitted facts. Simply saying a television commercial for the drug, entitled “Willpower,” didn’t include information on possible cancer risks doesn’t count.