FDA warns-widely used antipsychotic drug causes uncontrollable sex, gambling urges

© Jean-Paul Pelissier
Aripiprazole, the active ingredient in common antidepressant and antipsychotic medications like Abilify, has been linked to compulsive urges to have sex and gamble, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned.

Some patients taking medications that contain aripiprazole reported behaviors such as compulsive gambling, shopping, eating and sex, the FDA said on Tuesday. These uncontrollable urges ended when users stopped taking the medications.

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While pathological gambling is in fact listed as a side effect on drug labels, the FDA determined that the description “does not entirely reflect the nature of the impulse-control risk that we identified.” The other problems do not appear on labels at all.

The compulsive side effects only appear rarely, however. There were 167 reports of patients experiencing the problems in the 13 years since the drug was approved, the FDA said, compared to the 1.6 million people prescribed Abilify in the United States last year. The FDA noted that there may be additional cases of the side effects it was not aware of, since it tallies includes reports submitted to the agency.

“These impulse-control problems are rare, but they may result in harm to the patient and others if not recognized,” the agency said.

Aripiprazole is used to treat schizophrenia by decreasing hallucinations and stabilizing mood, and is often used to supplement other drugs to treat increase the effectiveness of depression treatments