Do You Know Birth Control Patch's Risks?

ByABC News
September 23, 2004, 6:55 PM

Sept. 23, 2004 -- Zakiya Kennedy had big dreams of becoming a model or designer.

But in April, those hopes vanished when the 18-year-old college student collapsed while waiting for the subway in New York City. She died on the way to the hospital.

"She was complaining about her head was hurting she felt pain in her leg and she had she felt dizzy," her father, Kevin, told ABC News' Chris Cuomo.

An autopsy revealed the cause of death was a blood clot called a pulmonary embolism, a rare and deadly complication of the birth control patch the young woman was using, called Ortho Evra.

If you have questions or concerns about the patch, visit, an interactive Web site, or call 1-877-377-3872, a toll-free number, to reach live, professional health-care specialists.

The patch, which has been used by 4,000,000 women, is like the birth control pill a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Both share similar effectiveness and health risks. Though the risks are extremely small, some women will die.

"Based on our best estimates less than two per 100,000 women less than the age of 35" will die from complications of the patch, said Dr. Shaun Biggers of New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York.

The risk of death from pregnancy-related conditions is 15 times greater than the risk of death from the patch, Biggers said.

But the patch is heavily advertised on television with beautiful models touting how easy it is to use. And Biggers said she is concerned that not enough people know about the patch's dangers.

"On some level, it may be a failure of the medical profession in terms of really informing patients," she said.

Pain, Swelling, Shortness of Breath

It's not clear if Zakiya Kennedy knew about that risk.