PHARMACEUTICALS

Weight-loss drug pulled off market

Weight-loss drug Belviq will be withdrawn from the U.S. market at the request of the Food and Drug Administration, after research tied it to increased rates of cancer.

Belviq, which came on the market in the United States in 2012, is sold by Japanese drugmaker Eisai. U.S. sales of the drug peaked in 2015, with more than 600,000 prescriptions filled that year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News and Symphony Health. Eisai’s revenue from the drug in the Americas in fiscal 2014 was $49.4 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

The pill is thought to trigger chemical signals that make people want to eat less. But early studies, done in rats, gave hints that it might also cause cancer. Since Belviq was approved, researchers have been conducting a five-year-long study to look at the drug’s safety profile.

The FDA said Thursday that those higher risks were significant enough for the agency to take the rare step of calling for the drug’s removal. About 7.7 percent of Belviq patients had cancer diagnoses, compared with 7.1 percent of patients who got a placebo.

Eisai said in a statement that it believes Belviq’s benefits for overweight and obese patients outweigh the drug’s risks.

“However, based on the change in FDA’s risk-benefit assessment and as requested by the agency, Eisai has agreed to voluntarily withdraw the products from the U.S. market,” the Tokyo-based company said.

— Bloomberg News

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook to allow new paid political messages

Facebook decided Friday to allow a type of paid political message that had sidestepped many of the social network’s rules governing political ads.

Its policy change comes days after Democratic presidential contender Mike Bloomberg exploited a loophole to run humorous messages promoting his campaign on the accounts of popular Instagram personalities followed by millions of younger people.

The change involves what Facebook calls “branded content” — sponsored items posted by ordinary users who are typically paid by companies or organizations. Advertisers pay the influential users directly to post about their brand.

Facebook makes no money from such posts and does not consider them advertising. As a result, branded content isn’t governed by Facebook’s advertising policies, which require candidates and campaigns to verify their identity with a U.S. ID or mailing address and disclose how much they spent running each ad.

Until Friday, Facebook tried to deter the use of paid posts through influential users as political messages. Specifically, it barred political campaigns from using a tool designed to help advertisers run branded posts on Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

Friday’s rule change will now allow campaigns in the United States to use this tool, provided they’ve been authorized by Facebook to run political ads and disclose who paid for the sponsored posts.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

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U.S. consumer spending appears to have slowed further in January, with sales at clothing stores declining by the most since 2009, which could raise concerns about the economy's ability to continue expanding at a moderate pace. The economic outlook was also dimmed by other data on Friday showing industrial production decreased for a second straight month in January.

Motorola Solutions won a $764.6 million verdict in a trade-secrets battle with radio rival Hytera Communications. A federal jury in Chicago on Friday found the Chinese company stole Motorola's secrets and infringed copyright in issuing the award. The digital-radio technology for walkie-talkies that was at the heart of the dispute is critical for utility workers, construction crews and school officials who need to maintain contact even in dire situations.

— From news services