long-term use of Abilify: Is it really safe?
Contrary to popular belief that Abilify is simply an ‘add-on’ to antidepressants, it is really an antipsychotic, initially used to treat schizophrenia and acute instances of mania. Now, in addition to what that cute, illustrated commercial tells you about this Rx, it is also often prescribed as a maintenance drug for bipolar disorder. My psychiatrist recently upped the dosage of my Abilify because of this reemergence of hypomania/mixed state. Knowing that it’s a drug created in Japan (which obviously makes it totally safe….), I agreed and have been taking double my previous dose since last week. I didn’t even bother to think that much about the potential additional side effects, but then, I came across an article on CNN.com/Health.com titled “Long-Term Use of Bipolar Drug Questioned,” written by Lynne Peeples.
According to the article, the medical research does not appear to justify the widespread use of Abilify for maintenance therapy, says psychiatrist Alexander C. Tsai, M.D., one of the lead authors of the review published in the “PLoS Medicine” journal and a visiting researcher at Harvard University. “We failed to find sufficient data to support its use.” Apparently, the safety of Abilify is based on a single study that may be flawed—-especially for a medication that is advertised to work in the long-run. That trial had several important limitations, according to Tsai and his coauthors. For one, they say, it may have been too short to judge the drug’s true effectiveness in preventing mood swings over the long term. The first phase of the trial lasted for 26 weeks, and less than one-fifth of the participants went on to complete the 48-week follow-up phase.
Great. So, no one in the scientific community really knows what could happen to us if we keep taking Abilify? Isn’t that a little disturbing? I’m honestly a bit scared to keep taking this drug. In the back of my mind, I do think about the fact that I might want to have a baby someday, and whether taking Abilify could harm the fetus. The article did say that the FDA is going to look into this finding, but in the mean time, I get to play the guinea pig.