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Weight Loss Drug Recall: Belviq Found To Increase Cancer Risk

A large study shows that the popular weight loss drug lorcaserin, also known as Belviq, could put people at risk of cancer. The findings encouraged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to call for a temporary suspension of the distribution of the medication. 

The agency approved the sale of lorcaserin to help people manage weight-related medical issues or obesity. The drug is known to be effective in promoting weight loss after long-term use. 

However, taking Belviq for several years may also come with unwanted effects. The study that involved 12,000 people found that those who took the drug for five years had higher risk of developing certain types of cancer.  

The participants were either overweight, obese or with cardiovascular disease. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, show 7.7 percent of the group that received lorcaserin developed cancer. 

The participants had developed pancreatic, colorectal or lung cancer, among other forms of the disease. However, researchers noted Belviq appeared effective to cut the weight of participants after three years without side effects. 

The team also noted that they did not determine if Belviq directly contributed to the increased cancer risk. The number of participants that developed the disease during the study was very small. 

However, the FDA still recommends that people who currently use the weight loss drug should stop taking it. It is important to contact a health care provider to discuss other safe and effective alternatives. 

“You may need to work with your doctor to try different options to find one that is effective,” according to Harvard Health Blog. “Anyone considering weight-loss medications or products should work with licensed health care professionals.”

But not all weight loss supplements may work as effectively as Belviq. The Harvard blog states that drugs work differently in each person and “someone who experienced weight loss with lorcaserin is not necessarily going to experience a similar effect from another medication.”

The FDA noted it does not recommend any special cancer screening for people who have been taking Belviq for years. The agency continues to evaluate the product's safety outcomes. 

Weight loss This picture taken on May 25, 2015, shows overweight people exercising at the Aimin Fat Reduction Hospital in China. More than simply dieting, there are other factors to consider if you want to maintain a healthy weight. Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

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