Risk of Gambling Addiction Unrecognized with Abilify Usage: Physicians and Patients Uninformed of Potential Dangers

The UK’s National Problem Gambling Clinic (NPGC) recently declared that there is a need to disseminate more information regarding the antipsychotic drug, aripiprazole, and the risks it can bring to the development of gambling addiction. Aripiprazole, also known by its brand name Abilify, is used to treat schizophrenia, psychosis, deep depression, and bipolar disorder. It works by helping to restore the chemical balance in the brain, such as dopamine. However, studies have suggested that it can have adverse effects on impulse control, such as pathological gambling, binge eating, sexual impulses, and compulsive shopping.

Leading psychiatrist Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, who runs the NPGC, stated recently that around 9% of the clinic’s patients were taking aripiprazole and were often unaware of the potential side effects. She further highlighted that GP’s prescribing the drug are not providing adequate warnings about the potential dangers, and that problem gambling is not on the radar of mental health teams in psychiatric units. Bowden-Jones also pointed out that this is not just any side-effect, but can lead to people losing their own home. She encouraged everyone to become more aware of the issue and suggested that mental health teams should be better informed.

In the United States, Aripiprazole was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 and by March 2019, there were 2,430 pending lawsuits related to the drug. Many of these lawsuits cited compulsive gambling and named the drug’s Japanese manufacturer, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. and its American distributor, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. In 2016, Bristol-Myers Squibb agreed to pay $19.5 million to settle claims that it had mis-marketed the drug and obscured information about the side effects.