How much do you know about the Abilify lawsuit?

Bristol Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals now face multidistrict litigation on a series of Abilify gambling lawsuits. These patients allege that Abilify contributed to their gambling and other problems.

Sound far-fetched? There are actually compelling reasons why the Abilify lawsuit is valid. In this guide, we’ll take a detailed look at what the lawsuits mean.

What is Abilify?

Abilify, or aripiprazole in its generic form, is an antipsychotic drug. It’s used as a treatment for bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and Tourette syndrome. In 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it as a treatment. Since then, it’s become a popular and successful drug for these disorders.

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However, manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb may not have anticipated that the success of the drug would come at a high cost. Research has linked Abilify to compulsive and dangerous behaviors. This includes compulsive shopping, compulsive sexuality, and compulsive gambling. These are only a few of the addictive, compulsive behaviors linked to Abilify.

Importantly, these behaviors appeared in Abilify patients who didn’t have a history of such behavior. When people stopped taking the drug, the compulsive behavior stopped too.

What Causes the Abilify Gambling Problems?

Abilify works by changing the brain’s dopamine levels to balance out moods.

Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that gives us the sensations of pleasure and reward. This encourages the behavior that triggers dopamine release to continue. The Abilify lawsuit claims that this effect causes compulsive behavior because patients feel a stronger dopamine drive to keep the elated feeling going.

A study from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) found that any drug that works by changing the dopamine levels can result in impulse control disorders in certain patients. The researchers found that out of all the dopamine receptor agonist medications, like Abilify, that were FDA-approved, none had appropriate warnings about this risk.

The consequences of developing compulsive behaviors can be serious. The makers and distributors of Abilify failed to warn patients of what they were getting into.

Changes to Abilify Warnings

In 2016, the FDA added a boxed warning to alert people of the risks of taking Abilify. They added this warning after hundreds of cases of people compulsively gambling, eating, having sex, and more after taking the drug.

A black box warning is the most severe kind of medication warning the FDA can give. The FDA also made Bristol-Myers Squibb include more information in the medication guide for Abilify so people would be aware of the risks.

In addition to Abilify’s common uses, doctors have been prescribing it for many other issues over the years. It’s prescribed to treat dementia in elderly patients and to autistic children to help them with their mood swings.

It’s legal for doctors to prescribe medications for off-label uses. However, the manufacturer can’t market the drug for these uses. There have been no studies on Abilify to see if these off-label uses are safe or effective, nor is it FDA approved it for these uses. Even the updated warnings might not be enough to keep patients safe from the risks.

Abilify Lawsuit Claims

Abilify has unpredictable, severe side effects that have led to many lawsuits from patients prescribed the drug. The compulsive behavior is the most-publicized Abilify lawsuit, but there are other claims as well.

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1.) Stroke

Abilify lawsuits have also linked the drug to a heightened risk of stroke.

This risk exists with a number of other antipsychotic medications. Even though they know about the risk of stroke, doctors still prescribe Abilify for elderly patients, who are at a higher risk of having a stroke.

The FDA has also issued a warning about the risk of prescribing Abilify to the elderly. However, some people have claimed that the makers of Abilify have illegally marketed the drug for this purpose, even though it’s not tested for it and comes with a higher risk.

2.) Compulsive Behavior Lawsuits

The compulsive behavior linked to Abilify makes up the majority of the lawsuits.

These behaviors can manifest as addictive patterns or urges that seem impossible to control. Patients allege that the drug has caused them to become obsessed with certain behaviors. These behaviors lead to gambling-related financial devastation, hypersexuality or sex addiction, compulsive shopping or eating, and more.

Gambling was the most reported compulsive side effect in these lawsuits. However, the same mechanism works in all these related behavioral effects. When we experience a rewarding feeling, it’s due to dopamine in the brain.

People feel these kinds of rewarding feelings after things like placing a successful bet, eating good food, or having sex. The presence of Abilify in the brain heightens the dopamine reaction, so people are more likely to pursue the feeling again and again. This turns into a compulsive behavior as people seek out the same dopamine high.

3.) Type 2 Diabetes & Hyperglycemia

A number of medications for mental issues, including Abilify, can make patients gain a lot of weight – as much as a pound a week. This weight gain can lead to type 2 diabetes. Patients may also cause hyperglycemia, or a blood sugar increase, another type 2 diabetes risk factor.

What Does the Abilify Lawsuit Mean?

There actually isn’t a single Abilify lawsuit. Instead, there’s a complicated web of litigation related to the serious side effects associated with this drug.

There are many filed individual lawsuits, as well as the multidistrict litigation made up of hundreds of cases. People are seeking damages for their Abilify-related losses, and hoping to hold the manufacturer accountable for failing to warn patients of the risks. Already, there have been millions of dollars paid out in settlements.

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Luckily, Abilify isn’t the only option for patients who need help with mental health issues. Find out more about an alternative here.