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Abilify Lawsuits Moving Toward Trial in Federal MDL and New Jersey State Court

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As a growing number of Abilify lawsuits continue to be filed by individuals who developed gambling problems and other compulsive behaviors while using the popular antipsychotic, small groups of cases are moving forward trial in both the federal court system and New Jersey state court.

Several hundred product liability cases have been brought against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, each raising similar claims that the drug makers withheld warnings about the risk of compulsive gambling linked to Abilify, which allegedly prevented users and family members to recognize the cause of compulsive urges to gamble or engage in other risky behavior, resulting in severe financial losses and devastating overall impacts on the lives of former users.

Given the similar questions of fact and law presented in lawsuits filed in various federal district courts nationwide, consolidated pretrial proceedings were established in October 2016, transferring the litigation to U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Judge Rodgers previously indicated that the first federal Abilify trials may begin by the end of this year, with a series of bellwether cases expected to go before juries to help gauge how they will respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.

Similar consolidated pretrial proceedings have also been established in New Jersey state court, where a number of cases are pending before Superior Court Judge James De Luca.

In a case management order (PDF) issued on May 26, Judge De Luca identified a group of 11 cases that will form a New Jersey pool bellwether trial pool, which will go through case-specific discovery and pretrial motions, with the first trial likely to begin by the end of next year.

It is expected that depositions of plaintiffs, their family members and treating physicians in the New Jersey bellwether cases will be completed by February 9, 2018, with expert disclosures and dispositive motions filed throughout the second half of the year.

The selection of a specific case for the first New Jersey trial, as well as additional scheduling orders, will be issued in September 2018, with a pretrial conference set for October 15, 2018.

While the outcome of these early trial dates in New Jersey state court and the federal MDL will not be binding on other cases in the litigation, the verdicts may have a substantial impact on eventual Abilify settlement negotiations to avoid the need for large numbers of individual cases to be set for trial nationwide.

Abilify Gambling Problems

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 last year.

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