Compulsive gambling, hyper-sexuality and compulsive shopping are all listed as harmful side effects in lawsuits against the anti-psychotic drug, Abilify. This week, five patients in northern Nevada have filed a suit against the drug's manufacturers.

The drug is primarily used to treat mental health issues like schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.

An attorney for the plaintiffs in Washoe County says the drug led to compulsive behavior that not only caused financial losses, but also mental anguish. Perhaps the worst part, he says, is that the drug makers knew about the risks, but didn't warn patients.

Attorney Peter Wetherall says there are more than 750 lawsuits presently pending against Abilify's manufacturers. He adds that all of those lawsuits cite compulsive behavior associated with the use of the medication.  

Pathological gambling is one of the most often cited issues, in patients who never had problems with it, before taking Abilify. Wetherall explains his patients' experiences, "[It caused] anxiety, stresses, and in some cases the loss of homes, the loss of credit."

Wetherall's clients used the drug for three to seven years. During that time, they developed a gambling problem. Wetherall says they "questioned their own sanity and were caused to question why they were behaving the way in the way that they were."

The lawsuit notes the medicine's role as a dopamine agonist, a neurotransmitter linked to impulses. Wetherall says, "As strange as it sounds, it's actually pretty well-documented in medical journals that this type of drug is capable of causing compulsivity."

He alleges the manufacturers, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd. did not warn users or doctors who prescribe the drug, about the risk. Wetherall said, "These companies clearly had the understanding their drugs could cause this type of harm."

Defendants did add warnings to the drug's label in Europe in 2012 and Canada in 2015, but it wasn't until 2016 that the FDA finally required the same warning in America.

Wetherall says the companies "preyed upon the most vulnerable" by going after people already suffering with mental health issues. He says they put 'profits over safety,' saying, "So that they could continue to make more money. Abilify became Bristol-Myers Squibb #1 drug, a billion dollar producer."

The plaintiffs are now seeking financial compensation, pain and suffering as well as punitive damages.

Wetherall says when his clients stopped using the drug, their compulsive behaviors either completely went away or dramatically diminished. 

When we reached out to the manufacturers for comment, a representative for Otsuka Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. told us they do not comment on pending litigation. Bristol-Myers Squibb did not get back to us.