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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Abilify lawsuits, which involve allegations that the popular medication caused users to develop severe gambling addictions and engage in other compulsive behaviors, has appointed a settlement master early in the litigation.
In October 2016, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings for all cases filed throughout the federal court system against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Phamaceuticals, over failure to warn about the gambling side effects of Abilify.
Given the similar questions of fact and law raised in the claims filed by individuals nationwide, the Abilify litigation is centralized before U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system.
While there are currently only about 60 cases pending in the multidistrict litigation (MDL), as Abilify lawyers continue to review and file cases on behalf of individuals who have suffered severe damages from compulsive gambling, shopping and other destructive behaviors, it is ultimately expected that several thousand cases will be brought against the drug makers in the coming months and years.
On February 28, Judge Rodgers issued a court order (PDF) appointing Cathy Yanni as the settlement master, following a recommendation by the Joint Settlement Committee. Ms. Yanni is an experienced legal mediator and negotiator, who worked as a Special Master on similar large pharmaceutical and medical device cases, including litigation on transvaginal mesh, the Medtronic Infuse, Avandia heart attacks, Yaz birth control lawsuits, and numerous others.
In a separate order (PDF) issued on March 1, Judge Rodgers called for plaintiffs and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals to a meet for a settlement conference with Ms. Yanni, as well as Magistrate Judge Jones in the near future.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, Judge Rodgers has previously outlined an aggressive schedule, which calls for a small group of cases to be prepared for early bellwether trials within the next year.
While the outcomes of these trials will not binding on other cases, they are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain testimony and evidence that will be repeated throughout the litigation. In addition, the bellwether trial program may facilitate potential Abilify settlements to resolve large numbers of cases.
Abilify Gambling Risk
Abilify (ariprazole) is one of the top-selling brand name medications on the market in the United States, generating sales in excess of $6 billion per year. It was introduced in 2002 for treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other major depressive disorders, but is also widely used to treat irritability, aggression, mood swings and other behavior issues.
In May 2016, the FDA required the drug makers to update the warning label to provide information for users and doctors about the potential Abilify risk of gambling, compulsive shopping and other compulsive activities. The regulatory agency noted that a large number of adverse event reports have been received from users describing uncontrollable urges to gamble, shop, eat or engage in sexual activity.
Although warnings about the potential link between Abilify and compulsive behavior have been provided to medical providers and users in several other countries for several years, information was not provided in the United States until recently.
Plaintiffs indicate that they may have avoided devastating consequences from Abilify impulsivity if warnings had been provided about the importance of monitoring for signs of uncontrollable urges to gamble or engage in other damaging behaviors.
As a result of the lack of warnings, plaintiffs indicate that they have suffered severe gambling losses, irreparable damage to their reputation, employment and family relationships, as well as general damage to their financial security and overall quality of life.