What is Abilify®?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
In some cases, Abilify is not an effective treatment for patients with mental disorders.
In some cases, Abilify is not an effective treatment for patients with mental disorders.

Abilify® or aripiprazole is a medication used in the treatment of major depression, schizophrenia and some forms of bipolar disorder, and made principally by Bristol-Myers Squibb® and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc®. The drug is a relatively new treatment, first approved for use in the US in the early 2000s. It has gained recognition as being potentially effective in treating some drug resistant forms of depression in major depressive illness, in schizophrenia and in bipolar disorder, though especially in bipolar disorder it is not always used alone. Similar discoveries have been made about potential benefits of several drugs known as atypical antipsychotics, a class to which Abilify® belongs.

Elderly patients with dementia should not take Abilify.
Elderly patients with dementia should not take Abilify.

Abilify® is not always effective for people who suffer from mental illness. Despite promising commercial marketing of the drug, anyone with schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder is likely to know that each person reacts slightly differently to the medicines he or she tries. Getting a medication to work may be a matter of waiting for its full effect or changing dosage, but sometimes some medicines simply don’t work. This doesn’t mean that Abilify® can’t be of great use, but for some people it will not be of any use and it can take time to find the right drug combination to treat difficult illnesses.

Dosage of the medicine is an increasingly important issue. With many drugs, the goal is to introduce small amounts and then build up to therapeutic levels. With Abilify®, the dosage might be different depending on condition. For depression, psychiatrists might initially prescribe small amounts and work up as needed. For patients with bipolar disorder, small doses at first may be problematic and may induce some of the more unpleasant side effects for which the drug has sometimes come to be known. To avoid side effects like akathisia, or extreme inner restlessness, initial doses of aripiprazole need to start higher.

There are other warnings associated with Abilify® including that it may intensify or cause suicidality especially in children and young adults. Those taking this drug need careful surveillance by a psychiatrist. Those who have dementia should not use this medicine as it has been connected to a high risk of sudden death. Like other antipsychotic medicines, aripiprazole may also raise risk for developing tardive dyskinesias or movement disorders that may not cease even if the medicine is no longer taken. The drug has also been shown to increase blood sugar levels and may place some people at risk for developing diabetes.

Many people will not develop any of these side effects. Some note minor or transient side effects like trouble swallowing, weight gain, sleepiness, feeling dizzy, or trouble sleeping. If these remain, people should discuss them with doctors. Abilify® may also conflict with or interfere with other medications, and people who take this medicine are usually taking several drugs. Doctors should have a full list of things taken, prescribed, over the counter, or herbal, so they can make best determinations on whether aripiprazole or other atypical antipsychotics are a good fit.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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    • In some cases, Abilify is not an effective treatment for patients with mental disorders.
      In some cases, Abilify is not an effective treatment for patients with mental disorders.
    • Elderly patients with dementia should not take Abilify.
      Elderly patients with dementia should not take Abilify.