With significant weight gain a side effect of almost every medication used to treat bipolar symptoms, weight related Abilify side effects are of great interest.
This is especially so as Abilify was originally considered to be weight gain neutral, or even to possibly assist weight loss.
However, more recently there have been claims that Abilify DOES lead to weight GAIN, causing much confusion and concern to consumers.
So let’s consider the evidence . . .
First, some background on Abilify.
This is a medication produced by Bristol-Myers Squibb and is classified as an atypical anti-psychotic (meaning is one of a new generation of drugs used to treat symptoms of psychosis, for example in schizophrenia.
It is also effective in treating bipolar symptoms.
Abilify is also known by its generic name of aripiprazole.
It is an effective antidepressant which also has anti-manic properties. This has made it attractive as a treatment for bipolar disorder for treating both mixed and manic episodes.
But does Abilify cause weight gain?
Abilify and weight gain
One reason for all the confusion about Abilify and weight and weight gain is that credible sources provide conflicting information.
The official Abilify website’s patient information sheet does indicate weight gain as opposed to weight loss as amongst the Abilify side effects.
The Mayo Clinic 1 includes weight gain as a “more common” Abilify side effect, but BOTH weight loss AND weight gain as a “less common” side effect. The Mayo Clinic also point out:
“The likelihood that a certain medication will cause weight gain or other side effects varies from person to person.”
Consumer Reports DOES NOT list either weight gain or weight loss amongst Abilify side effects. In fact, Consumer Reports does not comment on Abilify and weight gain at all, but they also state they have yet to make a detailed examination of all the Abilify evidence.
In Davis’s Drug Guide for Nurses, 11th edition, 2009, weight loss is listed, NOT weight gain.
The PDR Drug Guide for Mental Health Professionals, 3rd edition, 2007 is silent on the issue. It does not comment on whether Abilify causes weight gain or weight loss.
Abilify does cause weight gain in some patients.
The Nursing 2009 Drug Handbook, 29th edition, 2009, also list BOTH weight gain AND weight loss as potential side effects.
(And please remember the word “POTENTIAL”! Everyone has their own personal, individual reaction – many will experience NO side effects at all!)
A research study on Abilify and weight gain, called A comparison of weight change during treatment with olanzapine or aripiprazole: results from a randomized, double-blind study compared weight related side effects of Abilify versus Zyprexa found that patients gained much less weight on Abilify than they did on Zyprexa, and some patients lost weight on Abilify.
Another study, which was looking to specifically answer the question “Does Abilify cause weight gain?”, entitled A systematic review of quality of life and weight gain-related issues in patients treated for severe and persistent mental disorders:focus on aripiprazole, concluded:
“Data from studies indicate that the prevalence rate of clinically relevant weight gain during therapy with Abilify is similar to that occurring during treatments with other antipsychotic agents, either typical or atypical.”
The relationship between Abilify and weight gain appears to depend on the patient. There is no conclusive answer to the question of does Abilify cause weight gain as everyone is different. It seems sometimes it causes weight gain and sometimes weight loss, but weight gain is more common, although not as serious as some other bipolar medications.2
Abilify side effects
The common, well documented and agreed Abilify side effects include:
1. Abnormal or uncontrollable movements of face, tongue, or other parts of body. These may be signs of a serious condition called tardive dyskinesia (TD), which could become permanent.
2. If you have diabetes, or risk factors for diabetes (for example, obesity, family history of diabetes), or unexpected increases in thirst, urination, or hunger, your blood sugar should be monitored. Increases in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), in some cases serious and associated with coma or death, have been reported in patients taking ABILIFY and medicines like it.
3. Lightheadedness or faintness caused by a sudden change in heart rate and blood pressure when rising quickly from a sitting or lying position (orthostatic hypotension).
4. Decreases in white blood cells.
5. Impaired judgment, thinking, or motor skills.
6. Overheating and dehydration.
7. Swallowing problems (dysphagia).
AGAIN – PLEASE REMEMBER – every person is different. Some folks will not experience any side effects at all and may reap substantial benefits!