The anti-psychotic drug Abilify has been associated with gambling addiction and uncontrollable urges to eat, shop, and have sex. It has also been linked to severe weight-gain and type-2 diabetes in children.

Man Who Lost $375K Files Lawsuit

September 2016 — A man who compulsively gambled away $375,000 while taking Abilify between January 2007 and June 2015 has filed a lawsuit (PDF) against Bristol-Myers Squibb for failing to warn about the risk. Click here to read more.

Label Updates Emphasize Addictive Behaviors

August 2016 — The new label (PDF) warns that patients may not be able to recognize compulsive behaviors as abnormal. Doctors should specifically ask about the development of new or intense urges to gamble, have sex, shop, or binge eat. In some cases — although not all — urges went away in patients who stopped taking Abilify or reduced the dose. Click here to read more.

Abilify Lawsuits Centralized in MDL

In October 2016, judges centralized all federal Abilify lawsuits into Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2734) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida under Judge M. Casey Rodgers.

FDA Issues Warning About Impulse Disorders from Abilify

May 3, 2016 — The FDA has issued a Safety Communication to warn about the risk of uncontrollable urges to gamble, binge eat, shop, and have sex with the use of Abilify. The FDA identified 184 case reports of impulse-control problems since Abilify was approved in November 2002. Click here to read more.

What is Abilify?

Abilify (aripiprazole) is a prescription anti-psychotic medication that is used to treat severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It is manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and was approved by the FDA in November 2002.

What is the problem?

In the past, anti-psychotic drugs were only used to treat severe psychiatric disorders in adults, such as schizophrenia. In the last decade, they have increasingly been prescribed “off-label” to treat children with hyperactivity disorders, depression, and other mood disorders.

Abilify and Gambling Addiction

Abilify treats mental illness by balancing levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved of feeling of pleasure and motivation. The dopamine “reward system” is stimulated in response to certain activities, such as gambling, which reinforces the behavior.

In 2014, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found a link between Abilify and compulsive behavior disorders, including gambling addiction, based on 37 case reports. According to the reports:

“[J] was pre-occupied with thoughts of gambling and his gambling activity became both impulsive and involved extensive planning in obtaining funds to gamble, including the use of crime.”

“[K] described an escalation in his gambling to the extent of spending all of his money and it being ‘a reason to live’.”

“[S] began experiencing strong urges to gamble in the form of a euphoric feeling when thinking about gambling. In the following 2 years he incurred debts of around £25,000 on internet betting sites.”

Experts have known since 2005 that dopamine agonists like Abilify may lead to pathological gambling, hyper-sexuality, compulsive shopping, eating disorders, and stealing. Researchers say current warnings are not strong enough and they want a “Black Box” on the label for Abilify.

Abilify Diabetes Lawsuit

In September 2014, a lawsuit (PDF) was filed by a young woman who developed diabetes after taking Abilify “off-label” to treat depression. She started taking Abilify in 2009, when she was just 15 years old. She gained 30 pounds in six months and was diagnosed with diabetes.

$515 Million Settlement in Abilify Lawsuit for Marketing in Children

September 2007 — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. has agreed to pay $515 million to resolve a broad array of civil allegations involving illegal marketing of Abilify in children from 2002-2005.

Prosecutors allege that BMS told its sales force to call on child psychiatrists and other pediatric specialists, urging doctors to prescribe Abilify “off-label” in children. Federal law prohibits drug-makers from marketing medications for uses that are not approved by the FDA.

Studies Linking Anti-Psychotic Drugs and Childhood Diabetes

Evidence linking anti-psychotic medications and diabetes has been increasing for many years. Two of the most recent studies include:

  • JAMA Psychiatry (August 2013) — Study finds a tripled increased risk of diabetes in children on anti-psychotic drugs (such as Abilify) compared to other psychiatric medications (Adderall, Ritalin, clonidine, guanfacine, benzodiazepines). The risk of diabetes increased significantly with increasing cumulative doses. Click here to read more.
  • Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology (September 2014) — Study of over 48,000 children finds that 0.72% on anti-psychotics develop diabetes, compared to just 0.27% of children who did not take the medication. The risk was highest for females who were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder at an older age. Click here to read more.


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