Abilify lawsuits are mass tort claims against the pharmaceutical companies Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical for the side effects of their antipsychotic drug, Abilify. Abilify has been linked to sudden compulsive behaviors, including gambling and binge eating, yet the companies behind the drug failed to warn doctors and patients about the symptoms for years. These lawsuits aim to compensate the victims for their losses, including their gambling debts.
In this article, our defective drug attorneys show how Abilify works and why it is prescribed before discussing its side effects. We will then look at how the makers of Abilify failed to warn people about the risks of taking the drug and the lawsuits that have been filed against them. Finally, we will look at the compensation that victims can recover by filing a lawsuit.
- 1. What is Abilify?
- 2. What are the side effects of Abilify?
- 3. No warning about Abilify's serious side effects
- 4. Lawsuits that have been filed over the effects of Abilify
- 5. What compensation can victims recover
1. What is Abilify?
Abilify is an antipsychotic drug that alters how the brain handles dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals are responsible for the feeling of pleasure, and play a crucial part in the brain's reward system.
Abilify is used to treat adults who suffer from the following conditions:
- Bipolar disorder,
- Tic disorders, like Tourette Syndrome,
- Irritability associated with autism, and
- Major depressive disorder.
However, off-label use of Abilify has been common: Doctors have prescribed it to children and to elderly patients who suffer from psychosis from their dementia in the past.
Abilify was first created by the Japanese company Otsuka Pharmaceutical in 1995. In 1999, Otsuka partnered with the American pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb to further develop it and market it. Abilify was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for increasingly broader use, including for:
- Schizophrenia in 2002,
- Acute manic episodes from bipolar disorder in 2004,
- Major depressive disorder in 2007, and
- Autism-associated irritability in children in 2009.
2. What are the side effects of Abilify?
Numerous side effects of Abilify have been reported. The most common and least severe include:
- Akathisia and anxiety,
- Blurred vision,
- Restlessness, which can manifest itself in uncontrollable tremors,
- High blood sugar,
- Weight gain,
- Vomiting, and
- Suicidal thoughts.
However, Abilify has also been linked to more severe side effects, as well. One of them is a sudden compulsive and uncontrollable urge, which can manifest itself in:
- Having sex, or
Why Abilify causes this compulsion is unknown. However, numerous scientific studies have found a strong correlation between the drug aripiprazole, the main ingredient in Abilify, and impulse control problems in the people who take it.1
Additionally, these uncontrollable urges can make people things that they were never interested in, before. The urges only happen after they have begun to take Abilify. When these people stop taking Abilify or switch to a lower dose, the urges disappear.
The severity of these urges is disturbing. Victims report being uncontrollably addicted to gambling, shopping, or other behaviors that they had no interest in, before.2 In many cases, the urge was overpowering, and they felt as if they had no choice but to act on it.
The ramifications of these behaviors are often serious.
Victims whose urge was to gamble or to shop found themselves quickly losing their savings, then their paychecks, and then their jobs when they would skip work to go to the casino or the store. In many cases, the financial costs of their cravings put them so deeply in debt that it forced them to file for bankruptcy.
Victims whose urge was sexually related found themselves in other sorts of problems. For some victims, their sudden and uncontrollable urge to have sex ruined their marriage or tarnished their reputation.
3. No warning about Abilify's serious side effects
In spite of the clear connection between Abilify and addictive, compulsive behavior, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical refused to warn American consumers and doctors about the risks until the FDA forced them to in 2016.3
Abilify's makers had known about the risks since at least 2012, when drug regulators in Europe required Abilify's labels to include warnings about the risk of developing addictive behavior.4 Canada followed suit in 2015, requiring Abilify's warning label to be updated to include the risks of pathological gambling and other compulsive behavior.5
Rather than fully inform doctors and patients about the side effects of Abilify, though, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical decided not to mention the risks on the American version of the warnings labels until the FDA forced them.
4. Lawsuits that have been filed over the effects of Abilify
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical for the adverse effects of Abilify. They claim that Abilify was defectively marketed by failing to warn doctors and patients about the risks of developing compulsive behavior. They seek compensation for the losses that the behavior caused.
Pharmaceutical companies have a legal duty to disclose the side effects of their drugs. Not only do patients rely on that information to make informed decisions about their health, but doctors use warning labels to influence their prescription decisions, as well.
By failing to warn doctors and patients about the risks of compulsive behavior, even after knowing that the risk was high enough for other regulatory agencies to require the disclosure, the makers of Abilify put people in unnecessary danger. They did this to preserve the profits that came from selling Abilify.
Abilify lawsuits claim that this failure to disclose the risks of the drug caused serious damage to the plaintiffs.
Because so many people from across America have been hurt by a single act – the failure to warn consumers about the risks of Abilify – the lawsuits are a classic mass tort claim. Rather than allow each lawsuit to proceed individually, they have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of Florida for pretrial procedures like evidence discovery.6
As of April 15, 2019, this MDL contained 2,425 lawsuits.7
Rather than see the first round of bellwether cases go to trial, defendants Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical settled them for an undisclosed amount on the eve of trial.8 A second round of bellwether cases was moving forward,9 though a confidential master settlement agreement has since been reached.10
5. What compensation can victims recover?
Victims of Abilify's compulsive side effects can recover compensation for the economic toll of their behavior, as well as for the serious social problems that it has caused. This includes:
- Gambling debts and other economic losses associated with the compulsive behavior caused by Abilify,
- Medical expenses associated with treating the perceived addiction,
- Lost wages and the other professional ramifications of the victim's compulsive behavior, and
- Mental suffering caused by the effects of the addiction, including social stigmatization like the loss of friends and loved ones and the harm to the victim's reputation.
Additionally, Abilify lawsuits have sought punitive damages. These are meant to punish the drug's makers for their misconduct by making them pay victims even more than what it would take to compensate them.
Contact our defective drug lawyers
If you or someone you know suffered from compulsive behavior after taking Abilify, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and recover compensation for your losses. Call the defective drug lawyers at the Shouse Law Office at 855-LAWFIRM to invoke your rights, fight for compensation, and hold the makers of Abilify accountable.
See Grall-Bronnec, Marie et al. “Pathological Gambling Associated With Aripiprazole or Dopamine Replacement Therapy: Do Patients Share the Same Features? A Review.” Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 36(1):63-70 (February 2016); Gavaudan G, Magalon D, Cohen J, Lançon C, Léonetti G, Pélissier-Alicot AL, “Partial Agonist Therapy in Schizophrenia: Relevance to Diminished Criminal Responsibility,” Journal of Forensic Science 55(6):1659-62 (November 2010); Chau D, Roth R, Green A, “The Neural Circuitry of Reward and its Relevance to Psychiatric Disorders,” Current Psychiatry Reports 6(5):391-9 (September 2004).
See e.g., M.L. Nestel, “Patients Say Ability Turned Them into Compulsive Gamblers and Sex Addicts,” The Daily Beast (November 28, 2016).
FDA Drug Safety Communication, “FDA warns about new impulse-control problems associated with mental health drug aripiprazole (Abilify, Abilify Maintena, Aristada),” (May 3, 2016).