The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has prompted healthcare professionals to stay alert when prescribing Aripiprazole (sold under the brand name Abilify®, among others).
This comes as a result of an increase in the number of Yellow Card reports, associated with the medication received in 2023. Aripiprazole is an antipsychotic drug prescribed for the treatment of certain health conditions including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It works by balancing the levels of dopamine and serotonin in a patient’s brain to regulate their mood and behaviour.
The medication’s side effects, however, include the risk of developing an excessive drive to gamble. Patients are advised to notify their doctor if they, or their family and friends taking the medication detect any unusual urges they seem unable to take under control. Besides gambling, these cravings also include uncontrollable eating or spending, among others.
With that being said, patients should not stop the medication without the approval of a healthcare professional, as it poses health risks. It should be taken as prescribed until a further check-up is appointed.
The MHRA Received 32 Reports on Aripiprazole-Associated Gambling Disorders between January and August 2023
Under the operation of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the Yellow Card reporting site can be utilized by consumers to report possible side effects of medicines, vaccines, e-cigarettes, and other medical products. Over the last 14 years, the number of reports associated with Aripiprazole-associated gambling disorders (where the medication is believed to be the main driving factor) is 69. Nearly half of them (32) were received between January and August of the current year.
This has propelled the need to alert healthcare professionals about the spike in reported cases. In March 2023, the MHRA further notified gambling clinics to stay alert and report such instances.
The possible side effects of the medication related to gambling have been duly included in the Patient Information Leaflet since 2012. The side effects related to other impulse control disorders have been added in 2018.
Alison Cave, Chief Safety Officer of the MHRA, commented on the rise of the Aripiprazole reports, stating that their number was “small in comparison to the frequency with which it is prescribed”. She added that despite this, “the consequences for any patient developing these conditions can be significant”.
She also said that if patients have ever suffered from problem gambling in the past, they should notify their doctor before starting the medicine.
The reports on possible Aripiprazole-associated gambling disorders included both patients with and without a history of problem gambling. They also reported that following prescribed drug dose reduction or stopping altogether, they felt the side effects disappear.
Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, underlined the importance of raising the patients’ awareness of the medication’s possible side effects and reminded healthcare professionals to alert them, both during the initial and consequent check-ups. She also added that many patients had not undergone follow-up assessment of any new symptoms associated with gambling disorders.
The reporting of side effects of medications can be done either through the website (https://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/) or via the Yellow Card App available on Google Play and Apple App stores.
Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.