September 27, 2016 — A man who compulsively gambled away $375,000 while taking the antipsychotic drug Abilify has filed a lawsuit against Bristol-Myers Squibb.
The lawsuit (PDF) was filed by Michael Runninghorse, a man from Tennessee who was prescribed Abilify in January 2007. He began gambling shortly thereafter, and continued to gamble until he discontinued Abilify in June 2015.
Bristol-Myers Squibb is accused of failing to warn about the risk of gambling addiction from Abilify, which may have delayed diagnosis.
In May 2016, the FDA required Bristol-Myers Squibb to update U.S. warning labels to include gambling addiction, binge eating, excessive spending or shopping, and hyper-sexuality.
Gambling warnings were added to the label years earlier in other countries — November 2012 in the European Union and November 2015 in Canada. According to the lawsuit:
“The labeling for Abilify in the United States did not adequately warn about the risk of compulsive gambling and contained no mention that pathological gambling had been reported in patients prescribed Abilify.”
Dozens of similar lawsuits are now pending in district courts around the nation. On September 29, a panel of federal judges will decide whether to centralize the cases in a Multi-District Litigation (MDL). All of the lawsuits claim drug-makers knew or should have known about the risk.
Abilify belongs to a class of drugs known as dopamine-agonists, which treat mental illness by balancing levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is also involved in the brain’s “reward system,” producing feelings of pleasure and motivation that reinforce pleasurable activities. Other drugs in the dopamine-agonist class, such as those for Parkinson’s disease, have been linked to gambling addiction since 2003.
The lawsuit was filed on September 21 in the Eastern District of Tennessee — In Re: Michael Runninghorse v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. — Case No. 1:16-cv-00384.