Abilify Lawyers to Meet with MDL Judge for Initial Conference

Lawyers are scheduled to meet today with the U.S. District Judge recently appointed to preside over all federal Abilify lawsuits, which each involve similar allegations that inadequate warnings were provided about the risk of gambling addictions or other compulsive behaviors linked to the medication. 

There are currently about 50 product liability lawsuits pending against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals nationwide, brought by individuals who claim that Abilify caused them to suffer substantial gambling losses and damage to their financial stability. However, as Abilify gambling lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming weeks and months, it is widely expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of complaints will be brought throughout the federal court system.

Given the similar questions of fact and law raised in the cases, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided last month to centralize all pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida, as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation. The process is common in complex pharmaceutical litigation, and is designed to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and serve the convenience of parties, witnesses and the courts.

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In an Order (PDF) issued last month, Judge Rodgers scheduled an Initial Case Conference for today, at which time lawyers appointed to represent the interests of plaintiffs with cases pending nationwide will meet with the Court and attorneys for the drug maker, to discuss the status of the litigation and the organizational structure for the MDL.

At the conference, the parties are also expected to discuss whether a scientific and medical tutorial would be helpful for the court, during which each side would have an opportunity to present background information about the link between Abilify and gambling in a non-adversarial setting.

Abilify Compulsive Behavior

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, 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.

Addictive gambling problems on Abilify can have a severe impact on users, causing severe financial losses and behavior that can destroy families, reputations and cause irreparable damage to an individual’s quality of life. Plaintiffs allege that if warnings had been provided about the risk of impulsive behaviors, they may have avoided devastating consequences by recognizing the potential side effects associated with the medication and stopping use of the drug.

Although warnings about the potential risk were provided to medical providers and consumers outside the United States, plaintiffs in the mounting Abilify litigation claim that similar information was withheld in the United States until recently.

As part of the coordinated proceedings in the Abilify MDL, it is expected that Judge Rodgers will establish a “bellwether” process, where a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates to allow the parties to gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of their claims. 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.


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