Is Your Addiction The Result Of Your Medication?

People take medication with the hope it will alleviate their medical problems, not create new ones. Unfortunately, prescription drugs can have serious side effects that alter people's lives in unexpected ways. One problem that has come to light in recent years is that a popular medication commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression appears to increase the likelihood that patients will engage in impulsive behavior, and it has been linked to gambling addiction and similar impulse-control disorders. Here's more information about this development.

The Link Between Medication and Addiction

A class-action lawsuit against Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb, the makers of the antipsychotic drug Abilify (aripirazole), has exposed one of the drug's troubling side effects. According to one source of information, people involved in the lawsuit allege they developed compulsive gambling problems after using the drug. What's interesting about this situation is studies appear to support their claims.

Abilify belongs to a class of medications called dopamine receptor agonists. Some medical and mental health conditions arise as a result of the brain not producing enough dopamine. These medications attempt to fix the problem by acting as a substitute for this substance and connecting directly to dopamine receptors in the brain.

A recent study consisting of researchers evaluating 1,580 reports of impulse-control disorders submitted over a 10-year period of time connected the use of these medications with the development of various addictions including gambling, hypersexuality, and compulsive shopping. The results of the study were compelling enough for the FDA to begin issuing black-box warnings on dopamine agonist medications stating use of the drugs may cause these problems.

Recovering Damages for Injuries

While this issue may have come to light in the United States only recently, there's evidence prescription drug makers have known about this particular side effect and failed to adequately warn American consumers about the problem. For instance, Canada Health required Abilify's manufacturers to put warnings about impulse-control disorders being a possible side effect on the medication's box back in November 2015. Pfizer is allegedly settling a class-action lawsuit in Australia brought by 170 people who also developed addictive behaviors while taking Casaber and Dostinex.

Drug manufacturers are required to notify people about the possible side effects of their medications. When they fail to do so, those affected can sue for damages using product liability laws; in particular, the "failure to warn" statutes. To successfully win the case, plaintiffs must show:

  • The defendant knew about the problem
  • The defendant had a duty to warn about the dangers
  • The defendant failed to perform his or her duty
  • The danger was not visible or obvious
  • The plaintiff suffered injuries as a result

There are a few challenges you may run into when litigating this type of case against a drug manufacturer for damages caused by the medications it produces. The most difficult part of the case may be showing the connection between your use of the drug and the unintended side effects. This is primarily an issue in cases where the addictive behavior can possibly arise from the underlying condition the medication was prescribed to treat.

For instance, people struggling with depression can fall into addictive behaviors to compensate. A person in this situation would need to provide evidence the addiction was the result of the medication and not the underlying mental health disorder. In addition to providing expert testimony, you may need to have character witnesses testify on your behalf that you didn't engage in the addiction before you started taking the medication.

Another thing you'll have to show is that you used the medication as directed. One defense the drug company may use is that certain side effects only occur when a person uses the medication in an inappropriate way. You may need to supply evidence that other people were similarly affected by the drug in the amounts you were consuming and that those amounts were within the recommended limits.

For more information about this issue or help litigating a product liability lawsuit against a drug manufacturer, contact a personal injury attorney at a law firm like Dunnigan & Messier P.C.