Bradley and Denise Meyer have filed one of the increasing number of lawsuits against Abilify makers Bristol-Meyer Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals. Their attorneys have filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, asking that the trials be moved to a federal court in Northern Florida. However, the real story here is the cause of action: those drug makers failed to warn patients in the U.S. about the risks of compulsive, uncontrollable gambling associated with the medication. However, they did issue such a warning to patients and doctors in Europe as well as Canada. Why not here at home?
Abilify, known in generic form as aripiprazole, is a second generation (or “atypical”) anti-psychotic medication used in the treatment of various conditions that include depression, schizophrenia, autism and Tourette’s Syndrome. It works by increasing the amount of dopamine, the “feel good” brain chemical that is associated with rewards and pleasure.
Since giving Abilify approval in 2002, the FDA has received in excess of 180 reports of uncontrollable impulse behaviors that include compulsive shopping, binge eating, hypersexual behavior and uncontrollable gambling. Here is the interesting part: warnings about these behaviors were included in packages of the drug that were sold in the E.U. and Canada. However, these warnings did not appear on packages sold in the U.S. until recently. According to FDA officials, even the recent label warning on compulsive gambling was inadequate.
It is now apparent that executives at Otsuka were fully aware of the link between Abilify and compulsive, uncontrollable gambling. Why was this warning provided in every country except the U.S.?
According to the Mileys, 75% of Bristol-Meyers Squibb revenues from sales of Abilify during a single quarter in 2014 were made here in the United States. Worldwide, sales totaled well over half a billion in a single three month period. Of that, $415 million was from sales in the U.S. In 2015 alone, there were approximately 1.6 million prescriptions for Abilify written in the U.S.
Of course, we know what the difference is between the U.S. health care system and those in the rest of the industrialized world. Of every nation on the planet, the United States stands alone in continuing to allow predatory, profit-driven corporations to control the delivery of health care. Even in countries that allow private companies to operate in the health care system, those companies are forbidden by law to make profits. But not so here at home.
Tragically, these companies anticipate lawsuits over defects in their products. Executives and accountants sit down, crunch the numbers, and determine how much liability they face – and weigh this against potential profits. In too many cases, it is determined that potential profits outweigh the liabilities. And even if they do wind up paying out millions in judgment, this is literally the cost of doing business – that comes right off the corporate tax return every quarter.