Five former Abilify users from Nevada are suing the manufacturers and distributors the prescription anti-psychotic medication. The plaintiffs claim the companies neglected to give patients the full extent of side effects from the drug, which includes a variety of compulsive behaviors. Several of the litigants said Abilify led them to become problem gamblers.

Abilify lawsuits have filled the American civil litigation sector for the past two years. At one point, 200 Abilify cases were moved to a single court in Northern Florida, because of the similarity in the complaints, in order to simplify Abilify litigation into a class-action suit.

The Abilify suits filed last Wednesday in Washoe County District Court might eventually be added to the Florida docket, but for the time being remain in Nevada. The lawsuit claims that patients and doctors were not adequately warned of the full list of side effects from Ability, “Despite opportunities and a duty to do so.”

At its high point in 2014, Abilify sales topped $5.45 billion in the United States, so the two companies which distributed the drug were reluctant to put warnings on their best-selling product.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., a Japanese drug manufacturer, developed Abilify a decade ago. After side effects became known by regulators in Canada and Europe as early as 2012, Otsuka added “pathological gambling” onto its warnings on the drug’s label in those countries.

However, because the U.S. Drug Administration (USDA) did not label Abilify as a dangerous causer of compulsive behavior, the American distributor of Abilify, Bristol-Myers Squibb did not change the labels in the United States until January of 2016,

Bristol-Myers Squibb, a pharmaceutical giant headquartered in New York City, was also named in the Nevada lawsuits. Two of BMS sales representatives also were named. Neither Bristol-Myers Squibb or Otsuka America Pharmaceutical declined to comment on the lawsuit.

What Does Abilify Do?

Abilify, often referred to as its generic name, Aripiprazole, is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and autism spectrum disorders. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received at least 30 reports from 2005 to 2013 regarding compulsive gambling, along with 24 reports of other forms of impulsive behavior such as compulsive shopping and hypersexuality. Both could possibly be linked to the drug, according to the legal brief in the latest case.

Previous litigants in Abilify lawsuits have claimed that Abilify led them to develop eating disorders or become shopping addicts. Some became gambling addicts. In a few cases, their addictions people to bankruptcy and spiraling debt, while in one case, a former executive fell into a life of prostitution.

In several cases, people’s addicted behavior stopped promptly after they learned the side effects of Abilify and stopped taking the drugs. In some cases, it had taken years to learn the truth and people’s lifepaths had been diverted.

Changes in Europe and Canada

Key evidence in the case included a 2011 report made to the European Medicines Agencies that said the possibility that Abilify have caused compulsive gambling “could not be excluded”. As a direct result of the report, the companies made the addition of the new warning language to the drugs labels in Europe and Canada.

The complaint alleges that — despite all of the changes made in Europe and Canada to Abilify’s labels –both drug companies neglected to advertise the full extent of potential side effects in its U.S. patient medication guide. The company also continued to advertise on television and market the drug online without warnings.

Peter Wetherall Represents Abilify Litigants

According to Peter Wetherall, a Las Vegas attorney representing the Northern Nevada plaintiffs, there are roughly 1,000 lawsuits throughout the nation that have been made against the companies’ distribution of Abilify. With easy access to gambling in the many Nevada casinos, claims Mr. Wetherall, the problem for those suffering with compulsive behaviors side effect increased greatly in Nevada and nearby states.

The Las Vegas attorney said, “These people were vulnerable to begin with and things got much worse for them. Their meager little Social Security check is now being spent on slot machines or whatever, so it’s pretty sad.”

The Nevadans pushing the lawsuit are seeking compensation for damages for the gambling losses that were sustained while the plaintiffs were using Abilify.

2016 USDA Changes

January of 2016, the USDA finally put the warning on the drugs label lead to “compulsive or uncontrollable urges to gamble, binge eat, shop, and have sex.”

By the time the company finally added that warning, many Abilify users had lost millions of dollars while getting in gambling binges at brick-and-mortar casinos, on lottery tickets, and in online gambling – according to hundreds of Abilify-related court filings.

Non-Gaming Abilify Lawsuits

Though many of the cases filed have to do with compulsive gambling, a few of horrifying ones do not. In several cases, a combination of wage losses, overspending, and hypersexuality led Abilify patients to a life of prostitution. Others were even estranged from their families, due to their unexplained new habits and addictions.

For patients who might have dealt with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia before, family members did not see the new warning signs. In some cases where people held prominent positions, sudden impulsive behavior ruined finances and destroyed a lifetime of built-up trust.

$5.45 Billion Per Year in Abilify Sales

The FDA now warns doctors to “closely monitor” their patients using the drug. The FDA now warns doctors to prescribe other drugs, if possible. The 2016 warning label now warns doctors and patients of the dangers, while reminding “patients and caregivers [to be] aware of the risk of these uncontrollable urges”.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is reluctant to stop the production of Abilify. The company admits that Abilify is its largest money-maker. In 2014 alone, the drug brought in $5.45 billion in sales. In 2016, following the label change, the company agreed to pay millions in settlements spanning over 42 different states and the District of Columbia. Bristol-Myers Squibb said in a press release at the time it intends “[to] resolve claims it engaged in unfair or deceptive trade practices”.

About the Author
April Bergman avatar
April Bergman

April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

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April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

READ MORE
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