Abilify Lawsuits Allege Gambling Addiction, Compulsive Behaviors
Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals are facing lawsuits alleging that the antipsychotic medication Abilify caused impulse-control problems, including pathological gambling. Litigation continues to mount as cases are consolidated into a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of Florida before U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers. Plaintiffs allege that drug makers knew about the risks but failed to warn patients or the medical community.
Parker Waichman LLP is a national personal injury law firm with decades of experience representing clients in drug injury claims. The firm continues to offer free, no-obligation legal consultations.
Abilify lawsuits allege that the mental health drug caused uncontrollable urges to gamble and other compulsive behaviors, leading to serious consequences such as financial ruin. Plaintiffs suing over Abilify and pathological gambling often have no history of gambling addiction prior to taking the drug.
Abilify compulsive behaviors lawsuits were transferred into an MDL in October 2016. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) establishes these types of mass torts when there are many lawsuits with common questions of fact. Transferring similar lawsuits to one court before one judge makes complex litigation more efficient because it eliminates duplicate discovery and overall streamlines proceedings.
Plaintiffs in the Abilify litigation commonly allege that the antipsychotic medication caused impulse-control behaviors. For example, Reuters reports that one Tennessee man lost $375,000 in six months after starting Abilify. He alleges that his gambling addiction was a side effect of the medication. Other users allege that Abilify adverse events triggered such a severe addiction that they stole money to continue gambling. Some users reportedly described their habit as “a reason to live” while taking Abilify.
Another Abilify lawsuit was filed on behalf of a man who lost $75,000 gambling. He took the medication from May 2013 to August 2014. According to the complaint, his gambling addiction began shortly after starting Abilify. Once the medication was discontinued, he no longer had the urge to gamble.
Plaintiffs allege that drug makers knew about the risks but did not disclose them to patients in the United States, or healthcare professionals. The lawsuits point out that a warning has existed in Europe for some time prior. “Despite these warnings and advisories in Europe and Canada—for the same drug sold to patients in the United States—the labeling for Abilify did not adequately warn about the risk of compulsive gambling and contained no mention that pathological gambling has been reported in patients prescribed Abilify,” language in the complaints state, according to The Daily Beast.
In 2012, the European Medicines Agency called for a label update warning of “undesirable effects” with Abilify. The updated warning discloses includes “reports of pathological gambling have been reported among patients prescribed Abilify, regardless of whether these patients had a prior history of gambling.” The Abilify warning label was also updated in Canada in 2015.
Research has shown that Abilify can increase the risk compulsive-behaviors. Thomas J. Moore, senior scientist at the consumer safety watchdog group Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), published a study in 2014 showing that drugs like Abilify can lead to impulse control problems. “The drug triggers a pathological urge to gamble constantly, sometimes among persons with no previous interest,” he said, regarding Abilify and its effect on dopamine receptors. “It might be people starting to spend $300 a week on lottery tickets, and in other cases people will gamble away tens of thousands of dollars.”
Abilify Label Warns of Compulsive Gambling, Binge Eating, Sex
In May 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the labels on Abilify, Abilify Maintena, Aristada and generic aripiprazole would be updated to include information about compulsive behaviors. The agency updated the label to include reports of uncontrollable urges to gamble, binge eat, shop and have sex. Regulators said these behaviors subsided when patients stopped taking Abilify.
The FDA notes that, prior to this, the Abilify label already carried a warning for pathological gambling. However, the agency said, this does not accurately describe all the impulse-control problems reported among Abilify users. Although pathological gambling is most common impulse-control problem associated with Abilify, users have also experienced uncontrollable urges to binge eat, shop and have sex.
“In the majority of cases, patients with no prior history of the compulsive behaviors experienced uncontrollable urges only after starting aripiprazole treatment. Within days to weeks of reducing the dose or discontinuing aripiprazole, these uncontrollable urges stopped,” regulators said.
43 States Obtain $19.5M in Abilify Improper Marketing Settlement
Parker Waichman notes that, in addition to individual lawsuits Abilify manufacturers have also faced legal action from state governments across the United States. Bristol-Myers Squibb recently agreed to pay $19.5 million to settle allegations of improper marketing with 43 states.
Abilify is approved to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and autism spectrum disorders.
BMS allegedly promoted Abilify off-label, or in ways not approved by the FDA, for children and elderly patients; 43 state attorneys conducted an investigation and found that the company promoted the drug in these patient populations while failing to disclose all the risks.
Physicians can prescribe drugs off-label if they believe it will benefit the patient. However, pharmaceutical companies are prohibited from off-label marketing.
“We allege that Bristol-Myers Squibb improperly marketed this drug to encourage prescriptions to children and seniors and misled the public about its safety for those populations,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a Dec. 8 press release. “Companies cannot use deceptive practices and unfair marketing to increase their sales at the expense of patients’ health and well-being.”
When Abilify was first introduced in 2002, it was only approved for adult patients with schizophrenia. Since then, the FDA has approved the drug for other indications.
The Abilify multistate settlement resolves allegations that BMS marketed Abilify off-label to treat elderly patients with symptoms of dementia “despite the lack of FDA approval for these uses, and without first establishing the drug’s safety and efficacy for those uses” according to the release.
Filing an Abilify Lawsuit
If you or someone you know suffered a gambling addiction or other compulsive behavioral issues after taking Abilify, you may have valuable legal rights. Our personal injury lawyers offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).