Americans Were Kept In the Dark About Abilify Causing Compulsive Gambling & Sex Behaviors, Class Action Lawsuit Claims

By McCarton Ackerman 11/30/16

Thousands of patients have joined a class action lawsuit against the makers of Abilify.

Abilify Causes Compulsive Gambling And Sex Behaviors, Class Action Lawsuit Claims
via WikiCommons

A popular drug used to treat depression and PTSD comes with a myriad of severe side effects including compulsive gambling and sex addiction—but a new class action lawsuit claims that Americans never got the memo.

The Daily Beast reported that thousands of patients have joined the lawsuit against Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb, the drug makers behind Abilify. That number could increase, as Alabama-based law firm Cory Watson launched a national ad campaign featuring people sharing their nightmare experiences with the drug. Roughly 24 million Americans have been prescribed Abilify since it first went to market in 2002.

In addition to the claims of compulsive gambling and sex, the lawsuit also accuses the drug makers of waiting years before adding side effect warning labels in the U.S. (A TV ad for Abilify released in 2011 recited the laundry list of severe side effects that include suicide, seizures and comas, in addition to a warning that the drug could be fatal for elderly people with diabetes or dementia.)

“The drug triggers a pathological urge to gamble constantly, sometimes among persons with no previous interest,” Thomas J. Moore, a senior scientist at the Pennsylvania-based non-profit Institute for Safe Medication Practices, told The Daily Beast. “It might be people starting to spend $300 a week on lottery tickets, and in other cases people will gamble away tens of thousands of dollars.”

Moore published a paper in 2014 after reviewing 1,580 cases involving drugs similar to Abilify. He cited effects including hypersexuality, pathological gambling and compulsive shopping. Moore noted the correlation between these drugs and the cited behaviors “were significant, the magnitude of the effects was large, and the effects were seen for all 6 dopamine receptor agonist drugs.”

Individual cases are also being filed against the makers of Abilify. Minnesotans Brad and Denise Miley claim in their lawsuit filed in January that Denise became a compulsive gambler after taking Abilify and burned through more than $75,000 of the couple's savings. However, she says she lost her urge to gamble after discontinuing her use of the drug after five months.

The FDA has also taken action against the two drug makers. In May, the agency ordered both Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb to begin informing patients about the side effects of Abilify and include “compulsive or uncontrollable urges to gamble, binge eat, shop, and have sex” as potential outcomes on their labels.

Both companies declined to comment to The Daily Beast, citing their policies regarding ongoing litigation.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.