Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002, Abilify® (aripiprazole) was manufactured by Otsuka Group and marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb to treat mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and Tourette syndrome. The drug has been a bestseller—netting $8 billion dollars in sales and reaching 6.5 million prescriptions.
Yet, despite its widespread use, reports have linked the drug with compulsive behavior in patients, including pathological gambling and hypersexual activity. If you or a loved one have suffered insurmountable losses you believe may be related to use of Abilify, it’s worth seeking free counsel from an experienced attorney to find out how an Abilify lawsuit might help your situation.
Abilify gambling and compulsive behavior
The exact cause of pathological gambling is unknown, but scientific literature points to a disorder in the brain’s dopamine pathway, which regulates emotions, pleasure, and reward-seeking behavior. Abilify mimics the effects of dopamine in the brain.
According to the first Abilify gambling lawsuit filed in Florida courts, Otsuka’s own 6-Month Periodic Safety Update Report in September 2011 acknowledged a scientific article suggesting “a possible mechanism by which drugs that act on dopamine neurons, like aripiprazole, might possibly have some effect on behavior related to reward.”
Abilify impulse control effects go beyond gambling. According the FDA, analysis of the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System database from 2002-2016 found 184 cases of Abilify compulsive behavior. Pathological gambling accounted for 164 cases, but other compulsions included eating, shopping, and sexual behavior. Prior to taking the drug, patients had no history of uncontrollable urges and the compulsions ceased within days or weeks of discontinuation.
No studies have established a definitive causal link for Abilify gambling or other types of compulsive behavior. As University of Chicago Psychiatry Professor Jon Grant put it: “If it were as simple as it causing the behavior, then the streets would be filled with impulsive people.” But certainly the case can be made that sufficient warning was not given to patients – a type of negligence that is punishable in civil court.
Common Abilify Allegations
Abilify lawsuits allege:
- The drug harmed patients by causing uncontrollable urges, resulting in financial, psychological, and physical damages.
- The defendants failed to adequately study the drug and its possible side effects.
- The defendants knew – or should have known – that Abilify causes or contributes to compulsive behaviors.
- The defendants spent millions of dollars on misleading advertising that overstated the drug’s benefits and understated the risks, and made payments to physicians to promote Abilify.
- The benefits of using the product do not outweigh the risks.
Abilify FDA history
Other countries recognized evidence that the drugmakers knew of the risks and failed to warn patients. The European Medicines Agency ordered that pathological gambling be added to Abilify warning labels in October 2012. In November 2015, Canadian regulators mandated an update to the Abilify label to warn of an increased risk of pathological gambling and/or hypersexuality with use of the drug.
FDA regulations require drug manufacturers to revise their labels when there is “reasonable evidence of a causal association with a drug.” It wasn’t until January 2016 that the U.S. Abilify label was updated to include a warning about compulsive gambling.
The label now warns that “it is important for prescribers to ask patients or their caregivers specifically about the development of new or intense gambling urges, compulsive sexual urges, compulsive shopping, binge or compulsive eating, or other urges while being treated with aripiprazole…. Compulsive behaviors may result in harm to the patient and others if not recognized. Consider dose reduction or stopping the medication if a patient develops such urges.”
For many patients, this warning came too late.
Abilify Multidistrict Litigation vs. Class Action Lawsuits
Patients who took Abilify and suffered destructive impulse control issues can seek compensation through multidistrict litigation—a type of lawsuit that allows for settlements based on each injury victim’s individual case. Unlike a class action lawsuit, which offers the same amount of compensation to everyone who qualifies, MDL proceedings allow each qualified Abilify victim to seek their own compensation, specific to the damages that affected them and their families.
As of August 2018, MDL 2734 before the Honorable M. Case Rodgers in Pensacola, Florida had 1,665 pending lawsuits attached to it. After the first three settlement payouts, Judge Rodgers gave the defendants until September 1, 2018 to determine how they will settle the large number of lawsuits against them. Should they fail, another batch of lawsuits from the MDL will be scheduled for trial.
The MDL is not the only ongoing proceeding against Bristol Myers-Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical. In August 2018, 17 plaintiffs joined together in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, alleging that their use of Abilify caused addictions to gambling, shopping, binge eating, and sexual activity.
Abilify Lawsuit Settlement Amounts
So far, three cases were scheduled as bellwether trials in Pensacola, Florida court in June 2018. The idea behind bellwether cases is that they will expose strengths and weaknesses of the central arguments and defenses. Each of the cases in the MDL will still be heard individually, but these early cases usually set a precedent for the outcome. Each of the cases had a similar chain of events:
- Fanny Lyons’ trial was set for June 18. According to court filings, she began taking Abilify in January 2009 and stopped taking it in 2014 after losing more than $75,000 through compulsive gambling.
- David Viechec was preparing for his day in court on August 6. He took Abilify to treat bipolar symptoms from 2012 until late 2016, claiming he, too, lost over $75,000 to gambling compulsions, which stopped after he stopped taking the drug.
- Jennifer Lilly’s trial was set for August 27, alleging that taking Abilify from 2003 to 2016 led to lost earning capacity, as well as unspecified gambling losses.
A week before the Lyons’ trial, plaintiffs sought a court order allowing them to obtain documents from Otsuka regarding Rexulti, the drug introduced after Abilify’s patent expired. Instead, the company offered an undisclosed Abilify lawsuit settlement.
While no exact settlement amounts have been released, it is likely your case will be determined based on its own merit. If you or someone you love took Abilify and suffered financial losses due to compulsive gambling, or experienced personal or professional consequences due to hypersexual behavior, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Past & future medical/counseling expenses
- Lost wages, sick time, and vacation pay
- Lost earning capacity and income potential
- Emotional distress, pain, and suffering
- Gambling losses
- Damaged reputation
- Punitive damages
We cannot guarantee a particular amount as each case value is based on the merits of the individual lawsuit, but we can say it is not unusual to see settlements topping $100,000 in dangerous drug lawsuits.
Similar lawsuits involving the drug Mirapex were settled several years ago, which may give some indication as to how Abilify proceedings might go. Mirapex is a prescription drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease symptoms and, like Abilify, it stimulates the brain’s dopamine receptors, with effects like compulsive gambling. A federal jury awarded a plaintiff $8.2 million in compensatory and punitive damages after the man allegedly lost $260,000 over a four-year period of compulsive gambling arising from his use of Mirapex. Several months later, 250 additional Mirapex lawsuits consolidated in MDL were settled for an undisclosed sum. The similarities in the two cases suggest that the Mirapex suits may have set a precedent for liability.
Also worthy of mention, the U.S. Justice Department ordered Bristol-Myers Squibb to pay $19.5 million over charges of unlawful marketing of Abilify and downplaying the drug’s risks.
Contact Showard Law Firm to find experienced Abilify lawyers
If you or someone you love took Abilify and suffered from compulsive gambling or hypersexual behavior, we want to help. Choosing a law firm that is already focused on this area of litigation will give you access to all the internal data we’ve collected thus far.
Do you qualify to file an Abilify lawsuit?
- Were you prescribed Abilify by a doctor prior to 2016, and took the medication as indicated?
- Do you have no prior history of gambling with large sums of money?
- Did you lose significant sums of money to compulsive gambling while taking Abilify?
- Is there some proof of your specific gambling losses?
- Are you no longer taking Abilify due to unwanted side effects?
Our Abilify lawyers are dedicated to fighting for families like yours, and you won’t owe us anything for our services unless we secure compensation for you. Don’t wait to get experienced legal help— call or contact us online to get started with a free, no-obligation legal consultation today.
Additional Abilify lawsuit resources:
- S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division. (2016, June 20). In Re Abilify (Aripiprazol) Products Liability Litigation. David Viechec et al vs. Brystol-Myers Squibb Company, et al. Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial. Retrieved http://www.pacer.gov
- Current Psychiatry Reports – The neural circuitry of reward and its relevance to psychiatric disorders, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11920-004-0026-8#/page-1
- Plaintiffs vs. Bristol-Myers Squibb –Master Long Form Complaint, http://www.flnd.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/Abilify%20Master%20Complaint.pdf
- JPML – Pending Dockets, http://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/Pending_MDL_Dockets_By_District-August-15-2018.pdf
- FDA- Abilify Drug Safety Announcement, https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm498662.htm
- Penn Record –Philly’s Next Mass Tort, https://pennrecord.com/stories/511534254-philly-s-next-mass-tort-17-plaintiffs-claim-abilify-caused-them-to-compulsively-gamble-shop-eat-and-have-sex
- BioSpace – Woman Sues Abilify Over Hefty Gambling Losses, https://www.biospace.com/article/woman-sues-abilify-marketers-over-hefty-gambling-losses/