Industry Reports

Lawsuits Blaming Prescription Drug for Compulsive Gambling Climb to Over 1,000

The lawsuits against common prescription drug Abilify have climbed to more than a thousand in the United States, with several more suits filed in Canada. The antipsychotic medication allegedly caused hundreds of people to gamble compulsively. A global settlement may solve many of these cases, with the first court meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 12.

Over a thousand lawsuits against Abilify are pending in the Northern District of Florida and are a part of a multi-district litigation. Earlier, drug maker Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and marketer Bristol-Myers Squibb agreed to settle three cases for undisclosed amounts of money. They will now serve as a basis for the hundreds of additional suits filed against the medication. Plaintiffs claim they incurred significant financial losses due to gambling addiction and other compulsive behaviours they developed after being treated with the drug. Now, there is a chance all these lawsuits to be settled in the United States but it is unclear whether a settlement would have any effect on the lawsuits filed in Canada.

In March, Jennifer Boisjoli filed a notice of civil claim in the British Columbia Supreme Court against the Japanese drug maker and its Canadian and U.S. divisions, as well as against the supplier of the drug in Canada. According to her, she lost CA$140,000 from gambling while she was taking the drug. In a separate case, Tylor Hatch blames the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) for gambling away $600,000. He says he played blackjack online while on Abilify and while being in BCLC’s voluntary self-exclusion program. Despite being self-excluded, he was not prevented from gambling, Hatch points out, adding that this was the BCLC’s responsibility.

According to court documents, Boisjoli seeks $5 million in damages, a huge amount of money compared to what she claims to have lost. While there is no development in these two cases in Canada, they did sound the alarm about the potential dangers of taking Abilify. In the United States, however, a large number of the plaintiffs are likely to be hugely compensated for their financial and non-material losses. The two parties in the multi-district litigation in Florida must finalize a global agreement by September, which should resolve many of the lawsuits.

Abilify Linked with Gambling Addiction

Abilify, also known as aripiprazole, is an atypical antipsychotic medication and in Canada and the U.S., it is used for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorders. While these are serious disorders that require taking the drug only by prescription, in many cases it is also preferred for treating various other conditions such as aggression, mood swings, or irritability. In fact, the medication is prescribed off-label for many behavioural problems, which significantly increases the number of patients that may have been negatively affected by it.

The problem, according to the hundreds of plaintiffs, is the fact that the drug manufacturer did not include essential information regarding the side effects of the medication. One of its adverse effects is triggering compulsive behaviours such as uncontrollable gambling, shopping, eating, etc. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), there were 184 reports of impulse control disorders linked with the drug by May 2016. The agency conducted a review of its database, revealing that most of these reports, or 164, were about patients who had no prior history of compulsive behaviours.