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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Abilify lawsuits, each involving allegation that the popular antipsychotic drug causes gambling addictions and other compulsive behaviors, has scheduled “Science Day” presentations, so that the parties may educate the Court on scientific issues that are likely to come up during the litigation.
In October 2016, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings in the federal court system for all product liability lawsuits filed against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Phamaceuticals over failure to warn about the link between Abilify and gambling addiction, centralizing the cases before U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers in the Northern District of Florida to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system.
Each of the complaints raise similar questions of fact and law, alleging that the makers of the popular medication withheld information from consumers and the medical community that users of Abilify may experience uncontrollable urges to gamble, shop, engage in sexual activity and other impulsive behaviors.
There are currently about 50 cases pending before Judge Rodgers in the MDL. However, the litigation is expected to grow rapidly over the coming months and years, as Abilify gambling lawyers continue to review claims for individuals and families who have suffered severe losses, damage to their financial security and reputation as a result of the unusual behavior caused by the medication.
On December 16, Judge Rodgers issued an order (PDF) calling for an Abilify “Science Day” to be held on February 23. At that time, each side will have an opportunity to present an overview of the scientific and medical issues that will come up during the litigation. The parties have until January 23 to submit scientific articles for use during the hearing.
In complex product liability litigation, where a large number of claims have been brought alleging that individuals suffered similar injuries or medical issues as a result of the same product, it is not uncommon for the court to schedule such scientific presentations, which are typically presented in a non-adversarial manner, not part of the record or subject to cross examination.
Judge Rodgers also issued an order appointing leadership counsel (PDF) on the same day, selecting 16 Abilify attorneys to serve in positions that will benefit all plaintiffs involved in litigation. The appointments include two attorneys as plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel, one plaintiffs’ liaison counsel, three attorneys forming a Plaintiffs Executive Committee, seven attorneys to serve as the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, one attorney as federal/state liaison, and two to the Plaintiffs’ Fees and Common Benefit Fund Committee..
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, 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, and plaintiffs allege that if warnings had been provided about the risk, 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.
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.