Prescription Drug

When we see ads for prescription medications on television, the list of potential side effects often seems to last longer than the portion of the ad telling us what the drug is supposed to treat. However, in some cases, there may be more potentially harmful consequences than those already being disclosed.

Case in point is an antipsychotic drug called aripiprazole. Some 1.6 million people, including children, were reportedly taking aripiprazole last year. Abilify, made by the company Otsuka, is a popular brand of that drug.

One of the rather disturbing, although reportedly rare, potential side effects already being disclosed for aripiprazole is compulsive gambling. That side effect has also been linked to drugs used to treat restless leg syndrome and Parkinson's disease. In fact, Pfizer settled a class action suit last year in Australia with people who claimed that two of its drugs caused gambling urges.

Compulsive Behaviors Can Include Shopping, Eating and Sex

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a new warning that the impulse-control problems that aripiprazole can cause in some patients go beyond gambling. These can include pathological urges to shop, eat or have sex.

This information isn't completely new to the FDA. The vast majority (164 of 167) of the reported cases in the past 13 years linking the drug to compulsive behavior in the U.S. have involved compulsive gambling. However, compulsive shopping, eating and sex have also been reported.

Side Effects Are Likely Vastly Underreported

The number of people suffering the side effect of compulsive behavior, however, is likely vastly underreported -- perhaps by as much as 90 percent. Patients may be too embarrassed to tell their doctors or may not link the behavior with the medication.

There can be serious consequences to stopping the use of a drug as well. That's why it's essential to discuss the situation with your prescribing physician. However, consumers need to be aware of all of the potential side effects before they begin taking a drug or administering it to someone else.

Even if you begin suffering symptoms that aren't on the list of possible side effects of a drug, that doesn't mean that they aren't being caused by your medication. Sometimes they aren't discovered and disclosed until people report them. When multiple people suffer the same negative effect, as is often the case with prescription drugs, a class-action lawsuit is often the most effective legal remedy.