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Main Use Active Ingredient Manufacturer
Schizophrenia Aripiprazole. Bristol-Myers Squibb/Otsuka Pharmaceuticals

How does it work?

Abilify tablets contain the active ingredient aripiprazole, which is a type of medicine known as an atypical antipsychotic. It is used to treat schizophrenia.

The way in which aripiprazole works is not fully understood, however, it does work in a slightly different way to other antipsychotic medicines.

Aripiprazole works by acting on various receptors in the brain, particularly dopamine receptors and serotonin (5HT) receptors. Dopamine and serotonin are natural compounds called neurotransmitters, and are involved in transmitting messages between brain cells. Psychotic illness is considered to be caused by disturbances in the activity of neurotransmitters (mainly dopamine) in the brain. Aripiprazole is thought to work mainly by stabilising the dopamine activity in the brain.

People with schizophrenia may experience 'positive symptoms' (such as hallucinations, delusions and hostility) and/or 'negative symptoms' (such as lack of emotion and social isolation).

The positive symptoms are thought to be due to overactivity of dopamine in certain areas of the brain. Aripiprazole blocks the dopamine receptors in these areas and so prevents the overactivity. This helps control the positive symptoms of the disease.

The negative symptoms, as well as cognitive symptoms such as memory loss and poor attention, are considered to be due to underactivity of dopamine in other areas of the brain. In these areas, aripiprazole stimulates the dopamine receptors. This mimics the activity of dopamine in these areas of the brain and so improves their activity. This helps improve the negative and cognitive symptoms of this illness.

What is it used for?

* Schizophrenia


* This medicine may reduce your ability to drive or operate machinery safely. Do not drive or operate machinery until you know how this medicine affects you and you are sure it won't affect your performance.

* If you feel sleepy or lightheaded while taking this medicine, these side effects are likely to be made worse by drinking alcohol.

* Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you should not suddenly stop taking this medicine, even if you feel better and think you don't need it any more. This is because the medicine controls the symptoms of the illness but doesn't actually cure it. This means that if you suddenly stop treatment your symptoms could come back.

* Consult your doctor immediately if you experience abnormal movements, particularly of the face, lips, jaw and tongue, while taking this medicine. These symptoms may be indicative of a rare side effect known as tardive dyskinesia, and your doctor may ask you to stop taking this medicine, or decrease your dose.

* Consult your doctor immediately if you experience the following symptoms while taking this medicine: high fever, sweating, muscle stiffness, faster breathing and drowsiness or sleepiness. These symptoms may be due to a rare side effect known as the neuroleptic malignant syndrome, and your treatment may need to be stopped.

* This medicine has not been studied in children and adolescents under the age of 18 and it is not recommended for this age group.

* This medicine is not recommended for elderly people with psychosis associated with dementia, eg Alzheimer's disease, as it may increase the risk of stroke or death in this group of people.

Use with caution in

* People over 65 years of age

* Severely decreased liver function

* History of fits (seizures), eg epilepsy

* Diabetes

Not to be used in

* Breastfeeding

This medicine should not be used if you are allergic to one or any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have previously experienced such an allergy.

If you feel you have experienced an allergic reaction, stop using this medicine and inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Certain medicines should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, other medicines may be safely used in pregnancy or breastfeeding providing the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the unborn baby. Always inform your doctor if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, before using any medicine.

* The safety of this medicine for use during pregnancy has not been established. It is not recommended for use in pregnancy unless considered essential by your doctor. Seek medical advice from your doctor.

* It is not known whether this medicine passes into breast milk. Mothers who need to take this medicine should not breastfeed. Seek medical advice from your doctor.

Side effects

Medicines and their possible side effects can affect individual people in different ways. The following are some of the side effects that are known to be associated with this medicine. Because a side effect is stated here, it does not mean that all people using this medicine will experience that or any side effect.

* Dizziness

* Difficulty in sleeping (insomnia)

* Anxiety, restlessness and agitation (akathisia)

* Sleepiness (somnolence)

* Shaking, usually of the hands (tremor)

* Headache

* Blurred vision

* Weakness or loss of strength (asthenia)

* Fatigue

* Constipation

* Indigestion (dyspepsia)

* Nausea and vomiting

* Increased heart rate (tachycardia)

* A drop in blood pressure that occurs when going from lying down to sitting or standing, which results in dizziness and lightheadedness (postural hypotension)

* Abnormal movements of the hands, legs, face, neck and tongue, eg tremor, twitching, rigidity (extrapyramidal effects)

* Increased blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia)

* Seizures

* Increased salivation

* Pain in the muscles

* Prolonged erection (priapism)

The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the drug's manufacturer.

For more information about any other possible risks associated with this medicine, please read the information provided with the medicine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.

How can this medicine affect other medicines?

It is important to tell your doctor or pharmacist what medicines you are already taking, including those bought without a prescription and herbal medicines, before you start treatment with this medicine. Similarly, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicines while taking this one, to ensure that the combination is safe.

This medicine may enhance the blood pressure-lowering effects of certain medicines used to treat high blood pressure (antihypertensives). If you are taking medicines for high blood pressure you should tell your doctor if you feel dizzy or faint after starting treatment with this medicine, as your blood pressure medicines may need adjusting.

There may be an increased chance of feeling sleepy if this medicine is taken in combination with alcohol or medicines that can make you drowsy, such as the following:

* tricyclic antidepressants, eg amitriptyline

* narcotics, eg morphine, codeine

* benzodiazepines, eg diazepam

* sedating antihistamines, eg chlorphenamine

* sleeping tablets.

The following medicines may increase the amount of aripiprazole in your blood, and your doctor may need to prescribe you a lower dose of aripiprazole if you are taking any of these:

* quinidine

* fluoxetine

* paroxetine

* ketoconazole

* itraconazole

* HIV protease inhibitors, eg ritonavir.

If you stop treatment with any of these medicines while you are taking aripiprazole, your aripiprazole dose may need to be re-adjusted.

The following medicines may decrease the amount of aripiprazole in your blood. Your doctor may need to prescribe you a higher dose of aripiprazole if you are taking any of these:

* carbamazepine

* phenytoin

* phenobarbital

* primidone

* rifampicin

* rifabutin

* efavirenz

* nevirapine

* the herbal remedy St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum).

If you stop treatment with any of these medicines while you are taking aripiprazole, your aripiprazole dose may need to be re-adjusted.

Other medicines containing the same active ingredient

There are currently no other medicines available in the UK that contain aripiprazole as the active ingredient.