Aripiprazole, the antipsychotic component in Abilify, has been linked to a broad range of compulsive behaviors, including binge eating, gambling and uncontrollable desires for sex and shopping. It is believed that neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine trigger these obsessive behaviors, which tend to stop once patients go off the medication.

If you or someone you love developed a compulsive gambling problem while using Abilify, or incurred other financial harm due to unwanted side effects, you may be entitled to legal compensation. Contact The Bonsignore Trial Lawyers to discuss your rights during a complimentary case evaluation.

What is the drug Abilify used for?

One of the nation’s best-selling antipsychotic drugs prescribed for bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and other mood disorders, Abilify was prescribed to more than 1.6 million American patients last year alone. The drug is manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb in conjunction with Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, which claim that Abilify can reduce depressive thoughts, disorganized thinking, stabilize mood, and decrease symptoms associated with Tourette’s disorder.

What are the side effects of Abilify?

According to the Abilify product label, the most common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Blurry Vision
  • Stuffy nose
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Upper respiratory illness

More serious side effects that are less prevalent include:

  • Seizures
  • Movement disorders
  • Metabolic imbalance
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Blood sugar problems
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome
  • Low white blood cell count
  • Hypotension
  • Stroke (seen in elderly patients)
  • Unusual and uncontrollable urges to shop, gamble, eat and/or engage in sex

Abilify & compulsive behavior

Adverse events reported to the FDA along with the findings of several studies suggest a causal link between Abilify and various compulsive behaviors in patients who had no prior history of gambling addiction, problems with binge eating, hypersexuality or compulsive shopping. Health regulators confirm that since the drug entered the marketplace, at least 167 Abilify patients have reported major problems with impulse-control and pathological behaviors, many of which have led to crippling debt and financial ruin.

Researchers speculate that these compulsive behaviors may be caused by the action of aripiprazole, which is a dopamine receptor agonist.

Abilify and compulsive gambling

In a study entitled “Aripiprazole: a new risk factor for pathological gambling?” French researchers analyzed a cohort of schizophrenic or bipolar patients, most of whom were young with a history of addictive disorders. They found that pathological gambling was probably caused by Abilify (aripiprazole) in 7 out of 8 patients who were taking the medication at the time.

A separate and perhaps more telling case study on patients with no history of addictive behaviors, was performed in 2011. Published in the journal Current Drug Safety, the authors found three patients whose “pathological gambling was induced by aripiprazole, in patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.” The researchers determined there was a direct relationship between Abilify and gambling addiction because the compulsive behavior disappeared immediately once the drug was discontinued.

Pathological gambling behavior has the ability to undermine one’s life, leading to overwhelming debt, unemployment, foreclosure on homes, divorce, and damage to one’s reputation. Some patients who suffered incredible financial and emotional harm have brought lawsuits against Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Myers Squibb, alleging the U.S. drug label does not sufficiently warn that compulsive gambling has been noted in patients taking Abilify. One plaintiff claims he lost more than $75,000 during an uncontrollable gambling spree while he was taking the anti-depressant.

Abilify and compulsive eating

Binge eating is another compulsive behavior that has been reported by patients prescribed Abilify. This behavior is characterized by an urge to eat massive amounts of food even when there is no feeling of actual hunger. Symptoms of this disorder include frequent episodes of binge eating, eating food even after the stomach feels full, or eating excess amounts in secret. On May 3, 2016, the FDA issued a drug safety communication, stating that Abilify and other medications containing aripiprazole, was linked to compulsive eating and other problems with impulse control.

Abilify and compulsive spending

Compulsive shopping is another reported side effect of Abilify. While not as prevalent as gambling behaviors attributed to the drug, compulsive spending habits can wreak just as much financial damage. According to one recent meta-analysis, the average age of people who experience compulsive shopping behavior while on Abilify are between 40 and 59 and have been taking the medication for two years or more.

Abilify hypersexuality

Abilify impulse control problems can also lead to uncontrolled sexual urges and a greater preoccupation with intercourse, known as hypersexuality. While antipsychotics often carry risks of minor sexual dysfunction, at least two documented cases have shown that Abilify can cause extreme hypersexuality. Frequent use of pornography, daily masturbation and unprovoked sexual urges toward strangers are just some examples of these behaviors. Of the cases published in medical journals, hypersexual urges were noted when patients first started aripiprazole and resolved after stopping the drug.

FDA Abilify warning 

In May 2016, the FDA warns that use of aripiprazole has been tied to uncontrollable and compulsive behaviors including gambling, shopping, binge eating and hypersexuality. Health regulators cautioned that “These uncontrollable urges were reported to have stopped when the medicine was discontinued or the dose was reduced…we are adding new warnings about all of these compulsive behaviors to the drug labels and the patient Medication Guides for all aripiprazole products.”

To date, the FDA Adverse Event Reporting Database has logged 184 case reports that indicate a connection between Abilify and serious impulse-control problems.

Abilify compulsive gambling lawsuits

Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb are facing increasing numbers of Abilify lawsuits over addictive gambling behaviors that plaintiffs argue were not warned about. Prior to the FDA-mandated label update in 2016, the Abilify label only included warnings about dementia risks in the elderly and increased suicidal tendencies in younger patients.

Drug manufacturers have a legal obligation to provide adequate warnings about all potential side effects, and when this duty is breached, litigation may be warranted. Individuals who took Abilify and had no history of gambling addiction who experienced substantial financial losses due to gambling compulsions may be entitled to sue for compensation.

In March 2016, Abilify gambling lawsuits were coordinated before U.S. Judge Brian Martinotti in New Jersey state court (Bergen County), where the cases will share in pretrial motions and discovery. At the time of the order, at least nine complaints were filed, but dozens more are expected in the coming months. While the complaints have been consolidated as a mass tort, they are not bound by a common verdict and each claimant retains their right to an individual jury trial and settlement negotiations.

Abilify lawyers are currently reviewing cases

Big Pharma has a long history of churning out dangerous and defective drugs at the cost of consumer health and safety. If you developed destructive compulsive behaviors while taking Abilify, The Bonsignore Trial Lawyers are here to discuss your legal options. Every state imposes time limits for filing a defective drug lawsuit, with some allowing a mere 12 months from the date of injury. Speak to an experienced Abilify lawyer toll-free and without obligation by calling 1-866-600-3890.

Abilify gambling addiction resources

  1. Stat News, Commonly used drug can cause uncontrollable urge to gamble and have sex, FDA says https://www.statnews.com/2016/05/03/abilify-gambling-sex-urges/
  2. Time, FDA Warns Antipsychotic Drug Can Cause Compulsive Sex and Gambling http://time.com/4317182/abilify-aristada-aripiprazole-sex-gambling/
  3. FDA, Drug Safety Communication FDA warns about new impulse-control problems associated with mental health drug aripiprazole (Abilify, Abilify Maintena, Aristada) http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm498662.htm
  4. Current Drug Safety, Aripiprazole-Induced Pathological Gambling: A Report of 3 Cases http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/cds/2011/00000006/00000001/art00012#expand/collapse