PENSACOLA — A district-court judge in Florida will oversee
consolidated litigation against the makers of a brand of medications
used to treat several mental disorders.
According to topclassactions.com, the United States
Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred more than 20
cases brought against Bristol Myers Squibb Company, Otsuka
Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical Inc., the
makers of Abilify. The lawsuits allege that the drug caused
impulse-control problems in users, leading them to gamble
compulsively or engage in other compulsive behavior.
According to the Pensacola News Journal, Judge M.
Casey Rodgers of the Northern District of Florida will preside over
the discovery stage of the litigation.
George F. Indest III,
who specializes in health law and leads The Health Law Firm in
Orlando, told the Florida Record that he thinks this is an
unexpected choice for the proceedings.
“I am somewhat
puzzled by the venue selected for these cases,” he said. “The
Northern District of Florida, to my knowledge, does not handle a
great number of multi-district litigation cases. It is a relatively
small court in a small city. It is my understanding that
Bristol-Myers and its co-defendant, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co.,
consented to a plaintiff’s motion to transfer the cases to Florida.
The defendants must have had a reason for wanting this.”
previously lived in Pensacola and described it as a small community
that attracts tourists and is home to many in the military.
believe its population tends to be more conservative and
better-educated than many other places in Florida, so this may be one
of the factors that caused the defendants to agree to this,” he
said, adding that he’s known Judge Rodgers since she practiced as
an attorney in Pensacola. “She should handle these cases fairly and
In May, the Food and Drug Administration
announced it would add a new warning label to Abilify, also called
aripiprazole, to alert users to an impulse-control risk. The
medication is used for disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder, Tourette’s disorder, and irritability associated with
autistic disorder. If combined with antidepressants, it can also
treat depression, according to the FDA.
pathological gambling is listed as a reported side effect in the
current aripiprazole drug labels, this description does not entirely
reflect the nature of the impulse-control risk FDA identified,” the
FDA reported in a safety alert. “In addition, FDA has become aware
of other compulsive behaviors associated with aripiprazole, such as
compulsive eating, shopping and sexual actions.”
in the lawsuits claim they experienced side effects involving
compulsive gambling behaviors. During discovery, both sides will have
to tackle central questions. The MDL panel sent the cases to Florida,
saying “all the actions involve factual questions relating to
whether Ability was defectively designed or manufactured, whether
defendants knew or should have known of the alleged propensity of
Abilify to cause compulsive gambling behaviors in users, and whether
defendants provided adequate instructions and warnings with this
Indest, who is not directly involved in this
litigation, said lawsuits often follow FDA announcements like this.
He thinks defendants could proceed by questioning the science that
allegedly links Abilify with the described behaviors.
has been more difficult in recent years for plaintiffs to have the
scientific testimony of expert witnesses admitted in evidence in the
face of motions by the defense to exclude such evidence as ‘junk
science’ not meeting the standards of the Frye case,” he said,
referring to the general acceptance test used to determine if
scientific evidence is admissible. “Therefore, I think the
defense’s position may be to attack the evidence presented by the
plaintiffs as being unreliable and not scientifically sound.”