ALERT: Your health is top priority. We’re committed to providing reliable COVID-19 resources to keep you informed and safe.

Bristol-Myers to Pay $20M Abilify Settlement

businessmen signing a document

Bristol-Myers Squibb has reached a nearly $20 million settlement with a coalition of U.S. states after accusations the company improperly marketed the blockbuster antipsychotic drug Abilify (aripiprazole).

The pharmaceutical giant will pay $19.5 million to 42 states and the District of Columbia to resolve claims it engaged in unfair or deceptive trade practices when marketing Abilify.

The company denied any wrongdoing. The settlement was announced December 8, 2016.  Court approval is pending. Abilify generated $5.5 billion in sales in 2014.

Bristol-Myers Squibb was accused of marketing Abilify to seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease even though it wasn’t approved for those uses.

“Despite receiving a ‘black box’ warning stating that elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis who are treated with antipsychotic drugs have an increased risk of death, the promotion of Abilify to elderly patients was not halted,’ according to a statement from Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt.

The company also allegedly promoted “Abilify for uses in children beyond the drug’s indications and minimized and misrepresented the antipsychotic drug’s risks,’’ a statement from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said.

Bristol-Myers Squibb, in a statement, said it settled to “focus on making transformational medicines for patients battling serious diseases.”

It added that it “chose this path to achieve a prompt and full resolution of potential state consumer protection act claims stemming from a multi-state coalition investigation relating to the marketing of Abilify, an atypical antipsychotic medication, which Bristol-Myers Squibb has not marketed since 2013.”

False Claims Banned under Settlement

Under the settlement, the company can’t make “false or misleading claims” about Abilify or misrepresent findings of clinical studies about the drug, according to the attorneys general.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Abilify in 2002 for schizophrenia treatment. It has since been approved for bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and Tourette’s disorder. A coalition of states launched a consumer-protection investigation in 2009. The probe targeted Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., which makes Abilify, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, which was then responsible for promoting Abilify, according to California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.

“These companies endangered and compromised the health and well-being of millions of Americans in order to turn a profit,” Harris said in a statement. “This settlement makes clear that pharmaceutical companies using deceptive and unlawful tactics to promote drugs will not be tolerated in the United States.”

Meanwhile, the companies are defending themselves against lawsuits filed by Abilify users who say the drug led to binge eating, hypersexual behavior and compulsive gambling.

Several studies link Abilify to those compulsive behaviors.

Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical are accused of failing to warn Abilify users of the compulsive-behavior side effects and selling a defective drug.

Forty-three compulsive-behavior lawsuits against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical have been combined into a single multi-district litigation in the Pensacola-based Northern District of Florida.

Abilify Marketing Questioned in 2007

The most recent consumer-protection case isn’t the first time Bristol-Myers Squibb’s marketing of Abilify was called into question.

In 2007, the company agreed to pay $515 million to settle federal charges accusing it of illegal marketing – including promoting its popular drug to child psychiatrists, other pediatric specialists and nursing homes.

The U.S. Department of Justice accused the company of touting Abilify for “pediatric use and to treat dementia-related psychosis, both ‘off-label’ uses” from 2002 to 2005.

In the recent case, 43 jurisdictions will share the Abilify settlement. They are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Kevin Connolly
Written By Kevin Connolly Editor

Kevin Connolly joined Drugwatch in 2016 after 20 years as a newspaper reporter and editor. He is a member of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals, the Drug Information Association and Investigative Reporters and Editors. Some of his qualifications include:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention certificates in Health Literacy
  • Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from University of South Florida
  • Classes completed at Seminole State College of Florida in biology, microbiology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology

5 Cited Research Articles writers follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, court records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and interviews with qualified experts. Review our editorial policy to learn more about our process for producing accurate, current and balanced content.

  1. (2016, December 8). Attorney General Laxal, 42 States Reach $19.5 Million Settlement with Pharmaceutical Company for Deceptive Trade Practices Related to Drug Abilify. Retrieved from$19_5_Million_Settlement_With_Pharmaceutical_Company_for_Deceptive_Trade_Practices_Related_to_Drug_Abilify/
  2. Elmore, Charles. (2016, December 8). Abilify drug marketing charges settled with Florida, 42 states. Retrieved from
  3. (2007, September 28). Bristol-Myers Squibb to Pay More Than $515 Million to Resolve Allegations of Illegal Drug Marketing and Pricing. Retrieved from
  4. (2016, December 8). Bristol-Myers Squibb reaches multistate settlement over Abilify. Retrieved from
  5. (2016, December 8). Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, 42 Other Attorneys General, Announce $19.5 Million Settlement with Pharmaceutical Company Bristol-Myers Squibb Over Unlawful Promotion of Abilify Drug. Retrieved from
View All Sources
Who Am I Calling?

Calling this number connects you with one of Drugwatch's trusted legal partners. A law firm representative will review your case for free.

Drugwatch's trusted legal partners support the organization’s mission to keep people safe from dangerous drugs and medical devices. For more information, visit our partners page.

(888) 645-1617