FDA to Review Safety Issues Surrounding Leading Birth Control Pill Yaz

PHOTO: Yaz birth control is pictured in this handout photo.
Share
Copy

Yaz was pitched as the blockbuster birth control pill with benefits, the choice for women desperate for relief from severe PMS and acne. But now, several new independent studies have found that Yaz carries higher blood clotting risks than other leading birth control pills, leading to new scrutiny from safety regulators.

Former FDA Commissioner Dr. David A. Kessler, who is now working for lawyers suing Bayer, which makes Yaz, accusing the drugmaker of concealing the contraceptive's health risks.

"Bayer violated its duties under FDA regulations and state law by selectively presenting data as to [blood clotting] events," Kessler said in court documents, citing studies that Bayer itself conducted but allegedly misreported to regulators.

He indicated that if he had been head of the FDA in 2000 and knew what he knows now, he may not have approved the drug.

"In my opinion, had I, or a medical review officer, known these facts prior to approval, further investigation would be warranted," he wrote.

Citing conflicting safety studies, the The FDA is holding hearings Thursday to determine whether new safety measures, like package label changes, are warranted.

Bayer maintains that Yaz is safe.

"Based on a thorough assessment of the available scientific data, Bayer believes that its drospirenone-containing products are safe and effective and have a favorable benefit-risk profile when used in accordance with U.S. product labeling," Bayer spokeswoman Rose Talarico told ABC News.

Yaz was the best-selling birth control pill in the United States for 2008 and 2009. Tens of millions of women switched to Yaz since it was launched a decade ago.

ABC News investigated whether these women switched to a more potentially risky pill that, as it turns out, was never proven to treat common PMS.

In 2007, Carissa Ubersox, 24, was fresh out of college and starting her dream job as a pediatric nurse in Madison, Wis. On Christmas day, while working the holiday shift, her boyfriend surprised her at the hospital with a marriage proposal.

Wanting to look and feel her best for her wedding day, Ubersox said she switched to Yaz after watching one of its commercials that suggested this pill could help with bloating and acne.

"Yaz is the only birth control proven to treat the physical and emotional premenstrual symptoms that are severe enough to impact your life," claimed the ad.

It "sounds like a miracle drug," Ubersox said she remembers thinking.

But just three months later, in February 2008, Ubersox's legs started to ache. She didn't pay much attention to it, assuming, she said, that it was just soreness from being on her feet for a 12-hour shift.

By the next evening, she was gasping for air. Blood clots in her legs had traveled through her veins to her lungs, causing a massive double pulmonary embolism.

Her fiance called 911, but on the way to the hospital Ubersox's heart stopped. Doctors revived her, but she slipped into a coma for almost two weeks.

Ubersox's only memory of that time is something she refers to as an extraordinary dreamlike experience. She said she remembers a big ornate gate and seeing a recently deceased cousin.

That cousin, Ubersox said, told her, "You can stay here with me or you can go back."

But, she recounted, he told her if she goes back she'll end up blind.

"I just remember waking up in the hospital and I was like, 'Oh, I guess I chose to stay,'" Ubersox told ABC News.

Like her cousin in her dreamlike experience foretold, she actually did wake up blind, and remains blind to this day.

No one can say for sure whether Yaz caused Ubersox's blindness, but Yaz contains a unique hormone called drospirenone that some experts say may trigger more blood clots than other birth control pills. Clots can cause serious breathing problems, a stroke or even death.

All birth control pills come with some risk. Two to four women per 10,000 on the pill will suffer blood clots, and some will die as a result. But with Yaz, several new independent studies have put that risk two to three times higher.

"It's a disappointing finding," said Dr. Susan Jick, author of one of those independent studies involving almost a million women. "As a public safety concern that's not what one wants to find."

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
null
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...