Compulsive Gambling Lawsuit Says Addiction Began, Ended, With Abilify Use

According to allegations raised in a growing number of Abilify lawsuits filed by former users of the popular medication, compulsive gambling behaviors started shortly after they began using the antipsychotic medication, or increased the dose they were taking, yet the uncontrollable urge to gamble ended abruptly when they stopped taking the drug.

One such claim was outlined in a complaint (PDF) brought last week by Gerald Armfield, which alleges that Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. knew or should have known about the risk of compulsive gambling problems with Abilify, yet failed to adequately warn consumers and the medical community.

In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin on August 17, Armfield indicates that side effects of Abilify caused him to engage in compulsive gambling, which cost him tens of thousands of dollars and caused damage to his financial stability.

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Armfield began taking Abilify in May 2009, according to the lawsuit, and his compulsive gambling habit began shortly after. Although he was unaware of the link between Abilify and gambling, he indicates that his destructive habit stopped shortly after he stopped taking the medication in 2013.

The lawsuit notes that Armfield did not discover that there was a link between his addiction and the medication until 2014. However, even at that time, the manufacturers was providing false and misleading information to users and the medical community about the risk of compulsive behaviors.

Compulsive gambling warnings were added to the label for versions of the drug sold in several other countries, but the word “gambling” did not appear on the label in the United States until this year. Armfield and other plaintiffs pursuing similar claims allege that they could have avoided substantial losses and damage to their overall quality of life if they had been warned to be on the look out for symptoms of compulsive behaviors that may be caused by Abilify.

“Despite these warnings and advisories in Europe and Canada—for the same drug sold to patients in the United States—the labeling for Abilify in the United States did not adequately warn about the risk of compulsive gambling and contained no mention that pathological gambling has been reported in patients prescribed Abilify,” the lawsuit states. “In January 2016, pathological gambling was added only to the Postmarketing Experience section of the label; Defendants did not make any mention of gambling in the patient medication guide, a source of information likely viewed by physicians and patients.”

In May 2016, the FDA required the drug maker to update the warning label and add information about the link between Abilify and gambling problems. The new warnings will now provide information to users of Abilify and doctors in the U.S. about the large number of adverse event reports involving uncontrollable urges to gamble, as well as engage in other potentially dangerous activities, such as uncontrollable shopping, eating or sexual activity.

Consumers are now encouraged to speak with their physician if they notice these impulsive behaviors, as symptoms typically stop shortly after the medication is discontinued.

Given the similar patterns of fact presented in complaints filed by Armfield and other plaintiffs, a motion was filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in June, seeking to transfer all Abilify gambling cases to one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings. Oral arguments on the motion will be heard on September 29, in Washington, D.C.

If a federal Multidistrict Litigation, or MDL, is established for the Abilify claims, Armfield’s lawsuit and dozens of other Abilify complaints pending in U.S. District Courts nationwide will be transferred to one judge for coordinated discovery and a series of “bellwether” trials to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.


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