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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Abilify gambling lawsuits indicates that the first trials may begin by the end of this year, involving allegations that the makers of the popular antipsychotic withheld information from consumers and the medical community about the risk of compulsive behavior.
There are currently at least 115 product liability lawsuits pending against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals throughout the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that individuals suffered substantial damages due to uncontrollable gambling, shopping or other reckless behaviors that were caused by side effects of Abilify.
Plaintiffs indicate that the problems surfaced shortly after starting or increasing the dose of Abilify, and maintain that the lack of warnings provided by the drug makers prevented them, their families and medical providers from recognizing that uncontrollable urges to gamble or engage in other compulsive behaviors were being caused by the medication. In addition to substantial financial losses, plaintiffs claim that the compulsive gambling has divided families, impacted employment, destroyed reputations and otherwise damaged their overall quality of life.
Given the similar questions of fact and law presented in the lawsuits, the claims have been consolidated as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), which is centralized before U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the claims, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
As lawyers continue to review Abilify compulsive gambling cases for individuals throughout the U.S., it is ultimately expected that several thousand cases will be added to the MDL, where Judge Rodgers has previously indicated a small group of cases will be scheduled for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the Abilify litigation.
According to the minutes (PDF) from a case management conference on Monday, Judge Rodgers expects to begin holding trials in the MDL by the end of the year. The parties also discussed deadlines for completing discovery into general causation, as well as case-specific discovery for a small group of claims.
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 gambling 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.
Following the completion of common discovery and coordinated pretrial proceedings in the MDL, if the drug makers are unable to reach Abilify settlements or otherwise resolve the cases, each lawsuit may be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial date.