Problems with birth control pills containing Drospirenone and Ethinyl Estradiol, commonly abbreviated as DRSP/EE, have drawn scrutiny in recent years. Tens of thousands of women have sued the manufacturers of DRSP/EE-based birth control pills. These include popular brands such as Yaz, Yasmin, Beyaz, Gianvi, and Ocella. So far, lawsuits alleging problems with Yaz and Yasmin may cost Bayer up to $1.5 billion to resolve. Regulatory warnings and government action have followed suit.
Medical research has linked DRSP/EE birth control pills to a number of serious side effects in women. Principal side effects include an increased risk of:
- Blood clots
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Pulmonary Embolism
- Heart attack
- Gallbladder disease
This article focuses on the most common medical problems with Yaz, Yasmin, and other birth control pills. More complete information for individual cases should be obtained from a medical professional.
Blood Clots, Deep Vein Thrombosis, and Pulmonary Embolism
Lawsuits contend that an increased risk of blood clots is the biggest problem with DRSP/EE birth control pills. All birth control pills involve an increased risk of blood clots among women, but studies have shown that pills containing DRSP/EE carry a significantly increased risk.
Blood clots have been the most visible problems with birth control pills. Since 2008, Yaz has carried what is called a “black-box warning,” the most serious drug safety warning required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After years of health warnings, the FDA formally concluded that there may be a link between blood clots and DRSP/EE in April 2012. One Canadian survey that attracted considerable media attention found that 23 women had died after taking Yaz and Yasmin between 2007 and 2013. Over 10,000 lawsuits have been brought by women claiming blood clot related health problems after taking DRSP/EE birth control pills.
Blood clots can lead to more serious medical complications. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) involves blood clots forming in the veins, potentially causing leg pain and circulatory problems. More severe problems occur when these blood clots move and end up blocking arteries in the lungs – a potentially life-threatening condition called Pulmonary Embolism. Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism include shortness of breath, chest pains, irregular heartbeat, and coughing. Treatment may require additional medication or surgery to remove blood clots and restore the flow of blood through the arteries.
Hundreds of women have experienced heart attacks after taking DRSP/EE birth control pills. Heart attacks usually result when blood clots block an artery carrying blood to the heart. This may deprive the heart of oxygen, and can cause significant damage to the heart muscle.
Taking DRSP/EE birth control pills has been shown to increase this risk of heart attacks in two ways. First, the increased risk of blood clots mentioned above can increase the risk of blockages in the heart. These blood clots can form in the heart, or travel from other parts of the body to the heart. Second, Drospirenone (DRSP) has been shown to cause high potassium levels in the body. Potassium is important to the proper functioning of muscle and nerve cells, and elevated potassium levels can lead to cardiac arrest.
An increased risk of blood clots tied to DRSP/EE birth control pills can lead to an increased risk of stroke. Strokes are caused by blood clots in the brain, which can cut off the supply of blood and oxygen. Strokes can result in significant brain damage, leading to the loss of movement, speech, hearing, and sight.
The link between DRSP/EE and an increased risk of gallbladder disease is less clear. However, in March 2013 Bayer announced it would settle around 8,800 cases brought by women claiming that Yaz and Yasmin led to gallbladder disease. Bayer has set aside $24 million for the settlement. Each plaintiff suffering from gallbladder disease will receive $2,000, while each plaintiff requiring gallbladder removal surgery will receive $3,000. Bayer informed its stockholders that over ninety percent of plaintiffs were agreeing to this settlement.
If you or a loved one has experienced problems with Yaz, or problems with birth control pills generally, contact an attorney to discuss your options.