Arguments Over Abilify Lawsuit Consolidation to be Considered by JPML In September

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has scheduled oral arguments for next month, over whether to establish centralized pretrial proceedings for all Abilify lawsuits filed by users of the antipsychotic who say the medication caused them to engage in compulsive gambling, shopping, sexual activities or other impulsive behaviors. 

There are currently at least 24 product liability lawsuits pending in 12 federal court districts nationwide, each involving similar allegations that Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. failed to adequately warn users and the medical community about the potential side effects of Abilify. However, the number of claims is expected to grow substantially over the coming months and years.

Given similar similar questions of law and fact raised in the complaints, a motion was filed by both plaintiffs and the drug makers in June, seeking to establish a federal Abilify MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which would centralize all cases before one judge to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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In a hearing order (PDF) published on August 11, the U.S. JPML indicated that oral arguments on the motion will be considered during a hearing session on September 29 in Washington, D.C.

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 link between Abilify and gambling problems, 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 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.

If the U.S. JPML established centralized pretrial proceedings, it is likely that a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. While the outcome of these “bellwether” trials would not be binding on other cases, they may be useful in helping the parties reach Abilify settlements to resolve claims.


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