Abilify, an antipsychotic medication used to treat certain psychiatric conditions, has been controversial due to some unusual side effects. Some people taking this medication have experienced sudden and pathological urges to gamble or engage in other destructive behaviors. Drug companies Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb have faced lawsuits started by those patients who have seriously suffered the negative consequences of their compulsive actions.
What is Abilify?
Abilify was created by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company in Japan and is the generic drug aripiprazole. As a second generation antipsychotic Abilify treats psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but it is also used as an adjunct to other medications used to treat depression. Aripiprazole works on two chemicals in the brain, serotonin and dopamine, and balances them out by inhibiting or activating them. Like other second generation antipsychotics, it has fewer neurological side effects than earlier antipsychotics.
Although Otsuka created and developed the medication, the Japanese company partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb to market the drug. Both companies have faced possible liability because of issues and side effects some people experienced while taking Abilify. Some of these were minor, but some people have suffered serious consequences and have sued both companies for damages.
There are some common and mild to moderate side effects that may come with Abilify, like fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, tremors, dizziness, weight gain, constipation, and blurred vision. Sexual dysfunction and bone weakening can also be side effects and women may experience changes in menstruation.
More serious are the possible complications warned about in the black box warnings on Abilify’s labeling. One is that elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis are at a greater risk of having a stroke when taking the drug. Another warning is that children, teens, and even young adults up to the age of 24 are at risk for having suicidal thoughts and taking suicidal actions while on Abilify. Both of these can lead to death, which warrants the special black box warning.
The most unusual possible complication, and one that has led to Abilify lawsuits, is the onset of compulsive behaviors, particularly compulsive gambling. The official insert and packaging information for the medication does not warn about this possible side effect, but research and individual case studies have found a connection between the drug and the behaviors that is very troubling.
Most of the research into compulsive behaviors due to using Abilify comes from case studies, descriptions of individual experiences with using Abilify. These descriptions show that some people suddenly become compulsive about gambling, or in a few cases eating, when taking the drug. The behavior becomes pathological and the patient can’t stop gambling. The behavior completely stops as soon as the person stops using Abilify.
With little more evidence to go on than case studies, the drug companies were not forced to list compulsive behaviors as a potential side effect until 2016. In the 13 years of adverse events reported to the FDA, many people have suffered because of Abilify. Compulsive gambling has led some people to ruin their personal relationships and lose huge amounts of money. Compulsive and addictive behaviors are known to be related to dopamine, so it may be Abilify’s effect on this brain chemical that leads to the onset of problems.
Abilify Case Studies
Several case studies have been described demonstrating the possibility that Abilify can cause compulsive behaviors that are damaging and life-altering. These lend credence to the Abilify lawsuits making the case that the drug harmed people and their livelihoods. One case study described a young man who liked to gamble normally, but not compulsively. While taking Abilify he found that his gambling escalated and he thought about it constantly. As soon as he stopped taking the drug, the urge to gamble receded.
Another case study describes a young man who had never gambled until he started taking Abilify. He had a strong urge to gamble and felt euphoric at the thought of it. In two years he ended up more than $25,000 in debt from gambling activities. Once he stopped using aripiprazole, the urges to gamble stopped. These are just a couple of examples of many case studies with similar outcomes. For some people, the compulsive behavior was eating that resulted in unhealthy weight gain.
Many people who have suffered from taking Abilify and developing unusually compulsive behaviors have filed lawsuits against the maker, Otsuka, and the marketer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, of the drug. While no individual settlements have been reached, they likely will. Evidence continues to mount that the drug causes these behaviors in some people, and the FDA has now required that Abilify carry a warning on its label regarding compulsive behaviors.
Some of the people suing the drug companies have alleged that they were not warned about this potential side effect. The warning existed in Europe since 2012, but labeling for the drug in America did not include the warning until 2016. To plaintiffs, this makes it clear that the companies knew about the risks, but did not warn patients or doctors in the U.S.
The Abilify lawsuits are not unprecedented. Hundreds of suits have been filed against Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim because of Mirapex, a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease that has led to compulsive behaviors in some patients. Some of these patients lost hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling and have won millions in judgements against the drug makers.
Bristol-Myers Squibb has also faced lawsuits over allegations that it illegally marketed Abilify for off-label uses. Specifically, the company marketed the drug as safe and effective for pediatric patients and elderly patients with dementia. The drug has never been approved for these types of patients and so marketing the drug to them was illegal. As it turns out, Abilify can lead to strokes or suicide in these groups, and marketing to them was not just illegal, but also unethical. Bristol-Myers Squibb had to pay more than $515 million because of these charges.
If you took Abilify and suffered the consequences of compulsive gambling, eating, or other types of behaviors, you may have lost a lot of money, gained weight and health problems, lost relationships, and experienced other problems because of the drug. You have legal options, and like others who suffered on Abilify, you have a right to sue Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb to get the compensation you really need and deserve.
- https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=c040bd1d-45b7-49f2-93ea-aed7220b30ac - section-1