The federal judge overseeing hundreds of Abilify lawsuits has issued a new Order giving the parties until September to finalize a global settlement agreement that could resolve claims involving the antipsychotic drug’s alleged potential to cause compulsive gambling and other impulse control disorders.
There are currently about 800 Abilify cases pending in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida, where all such federal claims have been centralized before U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers for centralized pretrial proceedings.
The litigation was set to begin a series of three bellwether trials in June to test the strength of plaintiffs‘ claims. However, the Court stayed proceedings in those specific cases after the parties disclosed that they had agreed to settle the lawsuits.
The possible global Abilify settlement was disclosed in an Order dated May 8th, which directs the parties to establish criteria for “no pay” cases – those not eligible for compensation – within the next two weeks. Once the criteria have been established, they will have another two weeks to identify the no pay cases for removal from the litigation.
At that point, the parties will work with the Settlement Master to structure a mediation process for the remaining Abilify lawsuits.
Abilify (aripiprazole) is an atypical antipsychotic medication approved for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorders. However, doctors also sometime prescribe the drug off label to treat other behavior problems, including irritability, aggression, and mood swings.
Abilify works by targeting the brain’s serotonin and dopamine receptors. Dopamine plays an important role in attention, mood, movement, pleasure seeking and motivation. Excessive levels of dopamine have been linked to compulsive or uncontrollable urges to gamble, shop, eat and have sex.
In May 2016, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ordered that new warnings be added to the labels for all aripiprazole-containing medications, after a review of the agency’s adverse event database revealed more than 184 reports of impulse control disorders potentially associated with their use.
164 of those reports involved patients who had developed gambling addictions while taking Abilify. The remaining cases involved compulsive sexual behavior, shopping and eating. Most of the patients had no prior history of compulsive behaviors and reported that they began experiencing uncontrollable urges shortly after they initiated treatment with aripiprazole. The majority also reported that their compulsive urges subsided when treatment ended or dosage was decreased.