Abilify Leads Medicaid Spending

Published on August 3, 2016 by Sandy Liebhard

Abilify, an antipsychotic medication that has been linked to gambling addiction and other compulsive behaviors, ranks as Medicaid’s costliest drug in aggregate. According to a new report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, Abilify priced higher per prescription than   90% of the medications used by patients enrolled in the federal insurance program.

Per the report, aggregate drug costs to Medicaid reflect both frequency of use and per prescription cost. The most expensive drugs in aggregate are used to treat costly illnesses for which Medicaid is a primary source of coverage.

The Kaiser Commission report covers the time period from January 2014 to June 2016. During this period, Abilify ranked as Medicaid’s the most costly drug before rebates. The manufacturer of Abilify raised its price prior to its loss of patent protection in mid-2015, which the report notes is “a strategy often seen before a brand drug’s patent expires,”

While Abilify had the distinction of being Medicaid’s costliest drug in aggregate, it wasn’t nearly as pricey as some medications covered by the program. In fact, it didn’t even make the top 50 list of priciest drugs on a per-prescription basis.

Abilify Lawsuits for Compulsive Behavior

Abilify is an atypical antipsychotic indicated to treat schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and other psychiatric disorders in adults and children. In May, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ordered the manufacturers of Abilify and other aripiprazole product to add new warnings regarding compulsive gambling and other impulse control problems to their product labels and patient Medication Guides. The FDA acted after a review of its adverse event database from November 2002 through mid-January 2016 turned up more than 180 cases of compulsive behaviors among patients taking the drugs. Over 150 of those reports involved compulsive gambling. The remaining listed compulsive sexual behavior, shopping and eating, as well as multiple impulse-control problems.

It should be noted that compulsive gambling had already been mentioned as a possible side effect on the labels for Abilify and other aripiprazole medications. However, the FDA review suggested that the wording did not completely reflect the nature of the impulse-control risk associated with the drugs.

Court documents indicate that dozens of Abilify lawsuits have been filed in U.S. courts on behalf of patients who allegedly developed gambling addictions and other compulsive behaviors associated with its use. In June, the parties to these lawsuits asked the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to centralize the federal Abilify docket in a single U.S. District Court of the purposes of coordinated pretrial proceedings. The motion filed with the Panel also suggested that the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, would be an appropriate venue for the cases.

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