MDL Sought for Lawsuits Over Abilify Gambling, Impulse Control Problems

A request has been filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate all Abilify lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, centralizing all claims brought on behalf of individuals who developed gambling problems or engaged in other compulsive behaviors while using the popular antipsychotic medication.

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 recent months, a growing number of product liability lawsuits have been filed on behalf of individuals who have suffered severe gambling losses from Abilify, or experienced other damages caused by impulse control problems associated with the use of the medication, including unusual sexual activity, compulsive shopping or binge eating. The complaints allege that the drug makers failed to adequately warn consumers and the medical community about these potential side effects.

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There are currently at least 26 cases pending in 12 different U.S. District Courts nationwide. However, as Abilify impulse control lawyers continue to review and file lawsuits over the coming months, it is ultimately expected that several hundred claims will be included in the litigation.

In a motion to transfer (PDF) filed on June 24, both plaintiffs and the manufacturers of Abilify, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pyarmaceutical Co., indicate that the cases should be centralized before one judge given the similar questions or fact and law.

“Because no case has progressed to the point of trial, and discovery has just begun, the goals of efficiency and coordination can be met by transferring all 26 pending cases to the MDL judge who may be assigned to this case,” according to the motion. “Failing to transfer would force all the parties to take repetitive and/or redundant depositions and other pretrial discovery, as well as leading to inconsistent and conflicting rulings.”

Plaintiffs have proposed that the Abilify MDL be established before Judge M. Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida, where at least two cases are already pending. The motion also calls for an expedited hearing on the request, asking that oral arguments be considered at an upcoming hearing scheduled for July 28.

Abilify Compulsive Behavior

Last month, the FDA issued a warning about the link between Abilify and gambling problems, indicating that the drug has been linked to a 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.

In October 2014, a study published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that a class of drugs known as dopamine receptor agonists, often used to treat Parkinson’s disease, were linked to impulse control problems. However, the researchers in that study also saw the same behavioral problems associated with the use of Abilify.

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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