Abilify is a second generation atypical antipsychotic that is used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The drug, sometimes taken in tandem with other medication, is also used to treat conditions ranging from depression and autistic disorder to Tourette’s disorder.
Abilify, offered by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb, was originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2002 for the use of schizophrenia and soon thereafter bipolar disorder. But it wasn’t until Abilify’s approval for the treatment of major depressive disorder that its sales soared; by 2013 it was the top-selling drug in the U.S., with sales figures hitting nearly $6.5 billion.
Abilify has also been the subject of lawsuits and federally-imposed fines. As of 2016, following an FDA warning, lawsuits have begun to focus on a side effect concerning compulsive behavior. Prior to that, the drug was the subject of suits centering on its marketing campaigns and a $515 million fine imposed by the federal government in 2007 to resolve issues concerning marketing and pricing.
How Abilify (Aripiprazole) Works
Abilify works differently than most drugs in its class. Whereas most atypical antipsychotics more fully block dopamine receptors in the brain, Abilify only partially blocks activity in these receptors.
Also known as aripiprazole, Abilify works to rebalance dopamine and serotonin in an effort to improve mood or behavior. Though it must be stated that it’s “unknown” if those efforts and aims are realized through the medication. According to the product information available from the manufacturer: “The mechanism of action of ABILIFY, as well as other drugs having efficacy in schizophrenia, is unknown. However, it has been proposed that the efficacy of ABILIFY is mediated through a combination of partial agonist activity at dopamine D2 and serotonin 5HT1A receptors and antagonist activity at serotonin 5HT2A receptors.”
Abilify is administered orally, via tablets ranging in dosage from 2 mg to 30 mg. “Peak plasma concentrations” occur within three to five hours of dosing, according to the manufacturer. The drug is distributed widely throughout the body, and may be taken without regard to when an individual has last eaten.
Abilify is often used as an add-on medication, meant to supplement an antidepressant. The drug is marketed as a substance to take in tandem with another medication, not in lieu of it.