On Thursday, October 14, Arena Pharmaceuticals’ motion to dismiss a design defect lawsuit was partially granted by Missouri-based U.S. District Judge Greg Kays. Filed by Amy Davis, this lawsuit claims Arena’s weight loss medication Belviq had caused her breast cancer (diagnosed in November 2019). Judge Kays discovered the lawsuit could not specify how Arena played a role in the manufacturing of the now discontinued narcotic.
In early 2020 the growing concern of cancer led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to recommended having the drug withdrawn from shelves. Despite several Belviq lawsuits filed soon after, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decided in August that it wasn’t enough to centralize them into multidistrict litigation.
From Davis’ Lawsuit, most claims survived the motion, including those alleging a violated duty of care to Davis by Arena’s negligence in failing to test the drug further for the potential to cause cancer.
Unfortunately, the Judge has issues with several design defect allegations, including complaints that combined the roles of Arena and Eisai Inc. (another pharmaceutical company), and statements that Arena was involved in the distribution and selling of the medication. However, Judge Kays also stated that the design defect claim may not be completely dead.
Amy Davis is a Kansas City, MO, resident who, according to her complaint, began using Belviq to help with weight loss and “diet control” in 2017. In her claims, she states that Belviq advertisements included some breast side effects (such as lactation and shrinkage) but nothing related to breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, or other forms of cancer.
Davis’ claim of Arena’s failure to warn about breast cancer was among the allegations that survived the motion, but, as Judge Kays said, the claim can go only as far as the company failing to provide adequate warnings to Davis’ doctor.
With Arena making the argument that it can’t be held liable for failure to warn on a product it never sold in the US, Davis’ claims may not make it to trial. The Judge stated, “it appears these claims could be resolved in the near future on a motion for summary judgment.”