Growing Abilify Litigation Now Centralized
As more lawsuits continue to be filed against manufacturers of the antipsychotic drug Abilify, the growing litigation has now been centralized into multidistrict litigation. The decision was made to streamline early trial proceedings as more plaintiffs file complaints claiming the drug has led to uncontrollable behaviors like compulsive gambling.
On October 3, the U.S. Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation signed the transfer order to centralize federal Abilify cases into U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The proceedings will be overseen by Judge M. Casey Rodgers, who will be handling his first MDL with this centralization. MDLs are typically established for a large number of complaints that contain common statement of fact. The purpose of the coordination is to prevent duplicate discovery and testimony and make early trial proceedings more convenient for all parties involved.
At the time the transfer order was signed by the panel, there were 22 federal cases currently pending against Abilify manufacturers Bristol-Meyers Squib and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals. Two of those actions had been filed in the Florida court where the centralization was assigned. That number has grown to around 50 and some experts predict the number of complaints will get much higher as more Abilify users realize the potential risks associated with the drug.
Abilify was first approved by the FDA in 2002 for the treatment of schizophrenia. Since that time, approval has been extended to bipolar disorder and some symptoms associated with Tourette’s syndrome and autism. It can also be used in combination with some antidepressants to treat patients with depression. Last year, the FDA also approved generic versions of aripiprazole, the active ingredient in Abilify.
As use of Abilify has increased, so have reports of adverse events associated with the drug. Of particular concern are compulsive behaviors linked to Abilify, especially compulsive gambling. Some Abilify users that have experienced this side effect have found themselves facing severe financial consequences as a result of their compulsive gambling. Other compulsive behaviors that have been noted with the drug include binge eating and sexual behavior.
FDA warning about Abilify
In May, the FDA issued a safety communication warning the general public and the medical community about the risk of compulsive behaviors associated with Abilify use. The agency advised physicians to be alert for uncontrollable urges in their patients taking the drug and to lower dosages or stop the drug completely if these urges or behaviors become evident. Patients that stopped taking Abilify have reported the compulsive behaviors stopped as well, indicating the direct link between the drug and the side effect.
Abilify lawsuit allegations
Patients that have experienced these harmful side effects from Abilify have also begun to file lawsuits against Bristol-Meyers Squib and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, claiming the companies failed to provide proper warning about these side effects. Plaintiffs are also asserting that the drug’s manufacturers used misleading advertising to tout the benefits of the drug, while minimizing potential risks.
Centralization of Abilify lawsuits is still in the earliest stages, with an initial conference held recently to discuss the current status of the litigation. As the process moves forward, a few of the lawsuits in the MDL will eventually be selected to serve as early trials for the rest of the litigation. Known as bellwether trials, these lawsuits typically serve as examples of how juries may respond to evidence and testimony with future cases. The trials can also pave the way for settlement negotiations between defendants and plaintiffs.
- Abilify, https://www.abilify.com/
- FDA, FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA Warns about New Impulse-Control Problems Associated with Mental Health Drug Aripiprazole, http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm498662.htm
- Medscape, Impulse Control Problems Linked to Antipsychotic, FDA Warns, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/862796
- United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, Transfer Order for MDL No. 2734, http://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/MDL-2734-Initial_Transfer-09-16.pdf