Can Abilify, demonstrated to cause uncontrollable, impulsive and destructive behavior, also cause the user to engage in criminal behavior? A former gun-runner and convicted fraudster believes so – and is going to court in order to prove it.

Many people don’t remember the name Efraim Diveroli today, but his life and exploits several years ago served as the basis of last year’s Hollywood feature film, War Dogs. The story was loosely based on the criminal activities of Diveroli and his friend and accomplice, David Packouz, who managed to get a Defense Department contract to supply $300 million worth of arms to the Afghan National Army back in 2005.

In a plot echoing J.P. Morgan’s scheme during the U.S. Civil War, Diveroli and his accomplices provided outdated, substandard weaponry, obtained illegally from the Chinese through sources in Albania (in violation of a U.S. arms embargo). He and his co-conspirators then repackaged the materiel and attempted to re-brand, re-package and pass it off as new. Today, after serving time in a federal penitentiary, Diveroli is filing a lawsuit against the makers of Abilify, claiming that the drug was responsible for his “harmful compulsive behaviors.”

Diveroli started taking Abilify in August of 2008, about one month after his arms smuggling scheme began to unravel. Arrested and released on bond, he then attempted to sell weapons in violation of the terms of his release. Re-arrested for the violation, he was soon charged with 71 counts of fraud and conspiracy. After pleading guilty to one count of the latter, Diveroli was sentenced to a four-year prison term.

Manufactured and marketed by Bristol-Meyer Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical, Abilify is alleged to cause uncontrollable compulsive behaviors that include uncontrollable gambling, shopping and sex. Whether or not taking Abilify leads to criminal behavior remains to be seen. Diveroli’s lawsuit is only one of hundreds that have been filed against the drugmakers, who allegedly knew about the side effects and failed to issue warnings. In fact, such warnings were included on packages sold in Europe and Canada – but not in the U.S.

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.