Birth Control Pills Bring Lawsuits

Yaz and Yasmin complaints focus on the synthetic progestin, drospirenone. Studies have not found an increased risk with these pills, though.

Tammy Worth Special to the Los Angeles Times April 19, 2010

When the oral contraceptives Yasmin and Yaz came on the market in 2001 and 2006, respectively, they were thought to be safer than other birth control pills because they contained a different kind of synthetic progestin.

But in a flurry of lawsuits against the pills’ maker, Bayer HealthCare, attorneys claim that the progestin contained in the pills, drospirenone, is the cause of health problems, including deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the deep veins), strokes, heart attacks and gallbladder disease.

As of mid-February, about 1,100 lawsuits had been filed in the United States against Bayer, which stands behind the safety of the pills.

Research on the issue is divided. Some studies have found drospirenone to pose no greater health risk than other birth control pills; some studies show a sixfold greater risk of getting blood clots, even in young, healthy women. More research is being performed on the safety of the contraceptives, but for now, women considering taking the pills will need to weigh the contradictory information themselves.

“There is reason to be concerned, I believe, about both of them [Yaz and Yasmin],” said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, founder and director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. “When evidence like that comes up, people should pay attention to it.”

Oral contraceptives control unwanted pregnancies by using hormones that block ovulation. The first of these pills, introduced in the United States in the early 1960s, contained high doses of estrogen. They were quickly found to raise the risk of stroke, blood clots and heart attacks.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.