Abilify: Controversial Side Effects Plague Top Drug as Add-On for Depression Treatment

MedShadow.org interviews leading psychiatrist, Dr. Candida Fink

NEW YORK CITY, NY, November 11, 2014  – In 2013, the drug Abilify generated sales of $6.5 billion, making it the best-selling prescription in America. Although initially introduced for schizophrenia as an anti psychotic, Abilify is now used widely used as an add-on drug to treat major depression disorder. Su Robotti, founder/president of MedShadow Foundation, an online patient advocacy resource, interviewed Dr. Candida Fink, a leading board certified psychiatrist and co author of the books, The Ups and Downs of Raising a Bipolar Child and Bipolar Disorder for Dummies, about Abilify’s side effects when being used as an add-on treatment for serious depression.

Therapy combined with antidepressants are currently the central remedy for depression. Treatment for depression is complicated by multiple possible reasons for depression. Says Dr. Fink, “There are 16 million adults who are diagnosed each year with severe depression. Many of these patients need something beyond the single antidepressant to get well.”

Pharmaceuticals giant Bristol Myer Squibb has invested heavily in marketing Abilify, spending an estimated at $30 million in 2013 alone. The brand’s ubiquity has prompted many patients to ask for it by name. Dr. Fink warns “physician and patient must have a serious discussion about what is the best treatment for their recovery, weighing both benefit and potential adverse side effects of a combination of medications and psychotherapy.”

The most common side effects of Abilify include:

  • Changes to metabolism and how the body uses glucose, insulin and cholesterol which increases the risk of significant weight gain and type 2 diabetes
  • Motor restlessness
  • Lack of energy, feeling sedated or foggy (in some patients this can be transient)
  • Development of suicidal thoughts
  • Paradoxical responses leading to increased agitation and distress

Closely monitoring the patient’s progress and reactions to Abilify are paramount, and regular blood tests can point to any changes in glucose levels. Additionally, patients can control some of Abilify’s side effects such as weight gain and lack of energy through a structured diet and exercise regimen.

Read MedShadow’s coverage of Abilify.


About MedShadow Foundation

Founded in 2012 by Su Robotti, MedShadow Foundation seeks to educate patients and encourage discussion between patient and health care provider about the short- and long-term side effects of medication. MedShadow Foundation uses its website and various social media platforms to gather and report news and resources related to the side effects of prescription medications. While recognizing the beneficial, often life-saving effects of drugs, we know that accurate and complete information on side effects is frequently lacking.  For more information, visit www.medshadow.org.


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