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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Abilify lawsuits has directed the parties to meet again with a Settlement Master this week, in an attempt to resolve three compulsive gambling cases that are set for trials beginning in June.
There are currently more than 800 product liability lawsuits pending in the federal court system against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, each raising similar allegations that the drug makers failed to adequately warn about the risk of compulsive behavior problems with Abilify.
A series of three “bellwether” trials are expected to begin on June 18, August 6 and 27, to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain facts and evidence that are likely to be repeated throughout the cases, which are centralized before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).
While the outcomes of these early trial dates will not be binding on other claims, they are being closely watched and may influence Abilify settlement negotiations required to avoid the need for hundreds of individual cases to go before juries nationwide.
In an order (PDF) issued on April 25, Judge Rodgers ordered a committee of lawyers involved in the litigation to meet again tomorrow morning with Settlement Master Cathy Yanni, to continue recent efforts to resolve the three cases set for trial.
Judge Rodgers appointed Yanni as Settlement Master in February 2017, following a recommendation by the parties.
Ultimately, if the drug makers fail to settle Abilify cases pending in the MDL, or otherwise resolve the litigation, each case currently pending before Judge Rodgers may be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for a separate trial over claims that users suffered damages due to compulsive gambling additions that emerged shortly after starting use of the drug or increasing the dose.
Abilify Gambling Risk
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 compulsive behavior was previously provided to medical providers and users in several other countries, the drug makers did not provide the same warnings in the United States until May 2016.
Plaintiffs indicate that they may have avoided devastating consequences from Abilify impulsivity if warnings had been provided about the importance of monitoring for signs of uncontrollable urges to gamble or engage in other damaging behaviors.
As a result of the lack of warnings, plaintiffs indicate that they have suffered severe gambling losses, irreparable damage to their reputation, employment and family relationships, as well as general damage to their financial security and overall quality of life.