It is being established that the anti-psychotic medication Abilify (aripiprazole) has the potential to cause irrational, compulsive behaviors in patients who take it. One of the tragedies is that neither patients nor physicians had any idea of the connection – at least in the U.S. One thing is certain: Abilify has given a boost to gambling establishments as well as the sex industry and other sectors of the economy that sell or finance personal indulgence.

One person who learned this the hard way is “Susan” (not her real name), a woman from Detroit. She was prescribed Abilify for her bipolar disorder. Within weeks, she became sex-obsessed. She says, “I had plans to meet all these men from online dating sites and, for the first time ever, had a lot of phone sex…I even drove to another state and met a stranger in a motel.” In addition, she found herself craving sugary foods and began binge eating, packing on forty pounds. She had no idea that the issue might have been her medication until she learned about the Abilify litigation. Her doctor took her off Abilify as soon as she informed him. “I no longer have these compulsions,” she says, adding, “but I have the memories.”

Another compulsive behavior resulting from Abilify is compulsive gambling. “Anthony,” a resident of Portland, Oregon, says he had no idea what was happening. “I started gambling at the casino weekends but the urge took over and it was out of control,” he says.  “I was there every day. When I had no money left I burned through my credit cards. I never once thought about, nor was I warned about this side effect.” By the time he found out about the side effect, it was too late. His relationships with friends and family members had been destroyed. “This has caused so many problems,” says Anthony. “My only recourse – and perhaps a way to repay the money I borrowed…is to file a lawsuit.”

Gambling and compulsive sex are not the only behaviors caused by Abilify. One woman who goes by “Tanya” says, “[I] developed a serious addiction to shopping the end result being me filing for bankruptcy, divorcing my husband of 18 years, and me nearly losing everything that I ever owned.”

Meanwhile, “Alison,” who is married to a former Abilify patient, is considering filing for divorce. “My husband developed a gambling addiction from Abilify,” she says. “How can this even happen? The drugs they make these days – what’s going on in this country?”

What is going on is that Big Pharma continues to put profits ahead of all other considerations. They are enabled by the profit-driven U.S. health care system and weak regulations. Significantly, label warnings have been placed on packages sold in Europe for several years. However, these warnings did not appear in the U.S. until recently.

The worst part of these tragedies is that Abilify may not even be effective for treating the conditions for which it has been prescribed.  A clinical study from 2011 concluded that “Aripiprazole may be effective for the treatment of schizophrenia, but the data were of poor quality…[its] overall effectiveness over an extended period of time is inconclusive.”

Meanwhile, drug maker Otsuka, manufacturer of Abilify, has yet to do any long-term clinical trials on its product. Considering that sales of the drug made the Japanese pharmaceutical company over $6.4 billion in 2013 alone, chances are those trials will not be taking place any time soon.

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K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.