Abilify (aripiprazole) is an antipsychotic prescription medication that is used to treat bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia. It is also employed in children over six years of age who experience irritability, mood swings and aggression associated with autism.
Abilify differs from other antipsychotic drugs due to the manner in which it works. Unlike other drugs used for these types of treatments, which ultimately shut down the dopamine receptors in the brain, Abilify adjusts how those receptors work to bring them closer to functioning properly.
Abilify is still a relatively new medication, as it was first approved by the FDA in 2002 for treating schizophrenia. The drug has also received additional approvals, including:
- 2004 – Approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for schizophrenia
- 2005 – Preventing relapses in bipolar disorder
- 2007 – For use as an additional treatment for those suffering from major depressive disorder who haven’t responded appropriately to antidepressants
- 2008 – (EMA) Use in treating bipolar I disorder manic episodes
- 2008 – Maintenance for pediatric patients suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
- 2009 – Treating irritability in children suffering from autistic disorder
Abilify has been proven effective in assisting with a range of mental health issues associated with schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder. However, there are also numerous common side effects associated with the medication, including:
- Agitation and anxiety
- Blurred vision
- Increased saliva production
- Sexual dysfunction
- Increased drowsiness
- Unusual stomach sensations
- Weight gain
These common side effects may resolve on their own while taking the medication, or patients may choose to deal with them due to the efficacy of the drug.
Severe Side Effects
There are also several serious side effects associated with the drug. Though rare, the following side effects require medical intervention:
- Allergic Reactions – These can include swelling in the throat or mouth, rash, pancreas inflammation, itching, cramps, stiffness or weakness
- Akathisia – A disorder that causes the person to have inner restlessness, resulting in nearly constant movements, such as marching in place or rocking.
- Faintness – Some users have reported feeling as if they are going to faint upon standing
- Racing heartbeat
- Stroke – Especially in seniors who have dementia
- Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome – Causes fast breathing, fever, irregular heart rate and blood pressure, stiff muscles and loss of consciousness
- Permanent Tardive Dyskinesia – A condition in which the person displays involuntary, repetitive movements that are purposeless and uncontrollable
- Sustained Erection – Can cause erections that last for several hours and become painful
- Suicidal thoughts or actions during the first months of treatment
- High blood sugar
While Abilify has been proven effective in helping with the symptoms associated with depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, the FDA has issued two different black box warnings, which are the strongest label requirements possible.
- Suicide – While psychiatric disorders on their own can cause an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions, Ability has been associated with an even greater danger in both children and adults. The drug may cause an increase in depression resulting in behavioral changes and suicidality both with and without the medication. It is recommended that patients and caregivers watch for symptoms of aggressiveness, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia and irritability and report them immediately.
- Elderly Mortality – Abilify and another antipsychotic use in elderly patients suffering from dementia are associated with increased mortality rates. A majority of the deaths in these patients were due to sudden cardiac arrest and infection. Abilify is not recommended for use in treating dementia patients.
Abilify provides benefits, but it also has considerable and sometimes life-threatening side effects. If you or a loved one were injured as a result of taking Abilify, contact an attorney to determine your rights.