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Weight loss drug pulled from shelves over cancer risk

The Hill logo The Hill 2/14/2020 Kaelan Deese
a close up of a library: Weight loss drug pulled from shelves over cancer risk © The Hill Weight loss drug pulled from shelves over cancer risk

Manufacturers of a weight-loss drug removed their product from the market Thursday after federal regulators said it could elevate the risk of cancer.

Japan-based Eisai Inc. said it would voluntarily withdraw the drug Belviq.

The company said in a statement that it disagreed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analysis of new data on the drug's safety and believes Belviq's benefits outweigh the risks, The Associated Press reported Friday.

The FDA said doctors should immediately notify patients to stop taking Belviq and patients should dispose of leftover pills.

Belviq became available in 2012, around the same time similar weight loss drugs came on the market.

A five-year, 12,000-patient study of Belviq's heart safety, which the FDA required Eisai to administer as a condition of approval, found that the drug helped people lose weight and keep it off for several years without raising the risk of heart problems.

But subsequent analysis of the initial data by the FDA found that 7.7 percent of participants who took the drug were diagnosed with cancer, up from 7.1 percent in a comparison placebo group.

The range of cancers reported more often in the patients who took Belviq included pancreatic, colorectal and lung cancer, according to the FDA.

The FDA said there is no immediate need to have a cancer screening for anyone who took Belviq. The agency said the increased risk was only seen after extended use of the drug.

The drug is meant for adults with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30 and adults with a BMI of 27 who have other conditions that carry heart risks, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes, the AP said.

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