Pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers agreed to pay almost $20 million to settle claims that the company improperly marketed the antipsychotic drug Abilify. The company will pay $19.5 million to 42 states and the District of Columbia to resolve allegations that it engaged in deceptive or unfair trade practices when marketing the drug. The settlement is pending court approval.
Abilify was approved by the FDA in 2002 for treatment of schizophrenia. The drug was later approved for bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and Tourette’s disorder. In 2009, a number of states launched an investigation into the company’s marketing practices.
Bristol-Myers was accused of marketing Abilify to seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s, even though the drug was not approved for those uses. Studies have found that elderly patients who had psychosis that was caused by dementia who were treated with antipsychotic drugs, such as Abilify, have an increased risk of death. In addition, the company allegedly promoted Abilify for uses in children beyond what the drug was designed for. The company is accused of minimizing and misrepresenting the risks of Abilify. The company agreed to settle, but denied any wrongdoing.
In addition to the allegations of improper marketing of Abilify, a number of lawsuits have been filed by Abilify users who claim that the drug led them to binge eat, gamble compulsively, and exhibit hypersexual behavior. Several studies show a link between Abilify and compulsive behaviors. Bristol-Myers has been accused of failing to warn Abilify users of the side effects of the drug.
Unfortunately, many drug companies put their own profits ahead of public safety. When they do so, they must be held financially and legally responsible.