The weight management medicine Belviq (chemical name: lorcaserin), also available as Belviq XR, seems to be linked to an increase in cancer risk, according to an announcement on Jan. 14, 2020, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
UPDATE: On Feb. 13, 2020, the FDA requested that the manufacturer of Belviq voluntarily withdraw the medicine from the U.S. market. The FDA also said that people should stop taking Belviq and talk to their doctors about other weight-loss medicines and programs.
About the increase in risk
The FDA said the way Belviq may increase cancer risk is unclear. It’s also not clear how much Belviq may increase cancer risk. Still, the FDA believes that the risks of Belviq outweigh its benefits.
The FDA is continuing to evaluate results from studies on Belviq.
Belviq was approved by the FDA in 2012 to be used in combination with diet and exercise for people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more or people with a BMI of 27 who also had other health problems linked to obesity, such as high blood pressure.
Belviq is a pill taken by mouth.
Belviq targets a hunger receptor in the brain and helps people feel full after eating smaller amounts of food and also seems to help people feel full longer. The exact way Belviq makes people feel full isn’t fully understood.
When Belviq was approved, the FDA asked the company that makes Belviq to conduct post-marketing studies because of concerns about Belviq causing heart valve disease.
Post-marketing study results
The CAMELLIA-TIMI-61 post-marketing study on Belviq found no increase in heart valve disease risk. It also showed that Belviq may decrease the risk of new-onset type II diabetes in people who were prediabetic before they started taking Belviq.
However, the study also found that more people taking Belviq were diagnosed with cancer compared to people taking placebo (a dummy pill that looks just like Belviq).
An FDA review document from 2012 noted that a study in rats found Belviq “caused mammary gland tumors in both sexes at clinically relevant exposures, with no safety margin identified for female rats.”
What this means for you
If you are currently taking Belviq to help with weight loss, you should stop taking the medicine and talk to your doctor right away about other weight-loss medicines. Together, you and your doctor can decide on the best weight-loss program for you and your unique situation.
Stayed tuned to Breastcancer.org for updates on any safety issues related to Belviq.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Feb. 14, 2020, with new safety information from the FDA.
Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor
Reviewed by: Brian Wojciechowski, M.D., medical advisor