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Makers of Abilify face pharmaceutical litigation over side effect

People in Ohio suffering from depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder frequently seek help for their symptoms, especially if those symptoms prevent them from living a normal life. However, when taking the treatment risks adding even more complications to their behavior, they depend on drug companies to disclose that possibility. One company is facing potentially thousands of cases of pharmaceutical litigation because it failed to alert doctors and patients of possible side effects that jeopardized their quality of life.

Abilify is the brand name for an antipsychotic drug created in 1988 and distributed in this country in 2002 to treat symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In 2007, Bristol-Myers Squibb marketed it for depression. It works in the brain's dopamine receptors by triggering the systems that are responsible for pleasure rewards, such as seen in addiction. As a result, thousands of people developed compulsive behaviors after taking the drug. Abilify labels in Canada and Europe warned of this side-effect, but U.S. patients were not told.

Complainants tell of hypersexuality, binge eating, compulsive shopping and, most commonly, pathological gambling. One woman described her decline into sexual addiction, which cost the woman her job, her marriage and her reputation. Another story involved someone shopping until her family was reduced to bankruptcy. The most common accounts are of uncontrollable gambling in people who had no previous penchant for gambling.

Despite numerous studies and research attesting to the possibility of these behavioral side effects, Bristol-Myers Squibb failed to warn potential patients in Ohio and other states. Recently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration directed Bristol-Myers Squibb to include on Abilify labels a warning about side effects like compulsive gambling and other uncontrollable, addictive behaviors. Because of its delay, the company is now facing a backlog of pharmaceutical litigation from across the country.  

Source: thedailybeast.com, "Patients Say Abilify Turned Them Into Compulsive Gamblers and Sex Addicts", M.L. Nestel, Nov. 28, 2016

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