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Study Questions Abilify’s Effectiveness in Treating Depression

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Veterans Affairs researchers recently published a study that not only questioned Abilify’s effectiveness at treating depression, but also concluded that the drug’s serious side effects might outweigh any benefits associated it.

The report, published July 11 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), was based on a 12-week follow-up of a randomized clinical trial involving 1,522 patients suffering from major depressive disorder. The researchers found that although Abilify’s benefits for treating depression were statistically significant but relative minor, yet the drug’s side effects, which include sleepiness, weight gain, and akathisia (a restless movement disorder) were frequent.

Behavioral Side Effects Associated With Abilify

There are also severe behavioral side effects associated with Abilify, and those who take the medication have been known to develop impulse control problems such as uncontrollable urges to gamble, eat, shop, and have sex. These disorders appear to be connected to the way Abilify influences the reward center in the brain by reinforcing pleasurable activities and generating intense cravings to do the activity again.

While a pathological gambling warning was added to the Abilify label in Europe in 2012 and Canada in 2015, consumers in the U.S. were not warned of this side effect until May 2016, despite the fact that Abilify maker Bristol-Myers Squibb knew of this Abilify side effect but decided not to warn consumers and instead downplayed the risks in favor of protecting sales of the medication.

What is Abilify?

Abilify (aripiprazole) is an antipsychotic drug that was approved by the FDA in 2002 to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and autism spectrum disorders. The medication has generated sales of more than $6 billion per year and was the top selling brand name drug on the market in 2013.

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