In May of 2016, the FDA finally issued a warning about the antidepressant medication aripiprizole, sold under the brand name Abilify as well as in generic form. That warning stated that use of aripiprizole “may” result in compulsive, uncontrollable urges to gamble, binge eat and have sex. The agency’s warning noted that while these side effects are “rare,” they “may result in harm to the patient and others if not recognized.”
The second part of that statement is accurate. Abilify has destroyed the lives of patients who have lost everything because of compulsive gambling. However, based on the growing number of lawsuits and stories coming out, it appears these effects were far from “rare.”
“Patricia” (not her real name) is one Abilify patient who lost it all because of her gambling habit. However, she wasn’t aware of the association between her dangerous compulsion and the medication until a family member mentioned the lawsuits. She says, “I never connected my impulsive gambling to a medication that was supposed to improve the quality of my life. Now it all makes sense.” She asked her psychiatrist to taper her off the medication – and wonders why he did not warn her about the side effects.
Before taking Abilify, Patricia would never have considered gambling at all, considering it “stupid and a waste of time.” However, after being medicated with Abilify, she would gamble for two days straight without sleep. She would steal from her friends and family members in order to support her new gambling addiction. Today, she has filed for bankruptcy. Her husband is divorcing her, and her family has disowned her.
While she doesn’t believe winning a lawsuit against the manufacturer of Abilify will help her in recovering all that she has lost, she does hope it will help her family to understand her actions. Ironically, she was prescribed Abilify to treat her depression. Today, her sense of shame and self-loathing has made her depression all the worse.
“Patricia’s” story is only one of many. Another plaintiff told the court, “Abilify stole my life for several years.” Like Patricia, this claimant had never had the urge to gamble prior to taking the medication. Today, her life and relationships have been destroyed. Yet another Abilify patient in Kentucky took the medication for five years. His sudden gambling addiction became so serious that he eventually lost his business as well as his marriage. He stopped taking Abilify over a year ago and the urge to gamble is gone – but the damage is done.
These three cases are just the tip of the iceberg. The stories of financial ruin and broken families indicate that, far from being “rare,” Abilify’s side effects happen more often than not. Furthermore, manufacturers Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Meyer Squibb were fully aware of these side effects, having issued warnings in Europe – but not the U.S., where there are few constraints over marketing and pricing for prescription drugs.
It’s high time the makers of Abilify were held accountable.