Abilify and Compulsive Gambling: Concerns for Patients

If you take Abilify, or you know someone who does, we hope you’ll read this blog closely. Abilify, also known as Abilify Maintena, Aristada, and by its generic name, aripiprazole, has been implicated in causing uncontrollable urges in users of the drug, primarily compulsive gambling. However, other compulsive behaviors, such as eating, sexual behaviors, and shopping or spending money, are also known side effects.

Abilify, first sold in 2002, is a true money-maker for Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb. As a top-selling drug in the U.S, the drug grossed around $7.5 billion from October 2013 through September 2014.

What is Abilify?

Abilify is an antipsychotic drug used primarily to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (manic depression). It can also be used to treat Tourette syndrome, irritable moods associated with an autistic disorder, and in combination with other medications to remedy depression that doesn’t respond to other treatments. It works by rebalancing neurotransmitters in the brain. When used as prescribed for these mental or mood disorders, Abilify can be helpful for many people.

Some doctors prescribe Abilify for what are known as “off-label” usages. None of these uses—for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders, insomnia, and dementia—is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nor have there been any clinical trials demonstrating that the drug is safe—or even effective—for these health problems.

Damaging Side Effects

Every drug has side effects, and those for Abilify can be similar to other pharmaceuticals prescribed for mental/mood disorders: lightheadedness/dizziness, nausea, constipation, vomiting, and weight gain. These effects, while they can be difficult to deal with, are not considered a serious threat to health. But a disturbing trend of impulse control disorders have resulted that are significant enough for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a drug safety report warning about the use of Abilify.

During a 13 year time period beginning with 2002, 184 case reports in the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) database and in medical literature have indicated a link between using Abilify and impulse-control behaviors, especially pathological gambling. Of the 167 U.S. Abilify cases, 164 involved compulsive gambling, although other compulsive behaviors have shown up in the reports. In over half the cases, patients with no previous problems pertaining to compulsive behaviors began experiencing uncontrollable impulses to act in certain ways. Such overpowering urges stopped within a few days to weeks of reducing or stopping their dosage of Abilify.

Progress of Abilify Court Suits

One of the situations that has sparked a number of Abilify suits concerns labeling. In Europe, the drug’s warning label has specified pathological gambling as a side effect since 2012. However, in the U.S., both Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb left this important information off labels and did not include it in patient guides until 2016. Therefore, neither patients nor doctors were fully cognizant of the side effects concerning compulsive gambling and other related behaviors when considering the drug as an appropriate treatment. And yet clearly the drug’s manufacturers have known about the damaging side effects for years.

During 2016, a number of cases concerning Abilify were consolidated into what’s known as a “multidistrict litigation.” It simply means that all the related federal cases were moved to one court so the litigation process could be performed more efficiently. These cases were consolidated in the Northern District of Florida federal court, where it was announced that the first of the trials might start before the end of 2017. More than 115 product liability lawsuits against Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb need to make their way through the federal court system.

If you or a loved one have used Abilify and experienced the harmful side effects that involve compulsive gambling and other uncontrollable behaviors, you might want to seek legal assistance. You should know that pharmaceutical manufacturers can be held liable for improper labeling, unsafe side effects, inadequate testing, or production defects. Additionally, medical professionals who prescribe drugs for “off-label” use (i.e., for uses not approved by the FDA and listed on their packaging) can be sued for medical malpractice if these off-label uses lead to injury or death.

Seeking Truth. Securing Justice.

If you or someone you care about was seriously injured by a prescription drug, you should speak with a South Carolina pharmaceutical litigation attorney at the Louthian Law Firm as soon as possible. We have been securing justice for hardworking people and families of South Carolina since 1959. A personal injury award won in court or through a negotiated settlement can help a person harmed by a dangerous drug move forward toward health and wholeness. Keep in mind that the statute of limitations for these lawsuits often starts before you discover the injuries, so time is of the essence.

Because we know injured people are often suffering financially as well as physically, we never charge for an initial case evaluation. For a free consultation, call us today at 1-803-454-1200, or fill out our convenient and confidential online case evaluation form.