Do you or a significant other rely on contraceptive pills for your sexy peace of mind? Depending on the type of pill taken, I’d rethink doing that. A popular birth control pill called Yasmine and its contraceptive cousin Yaz are the subject of lawsuits between several thousand consumers and the manufacturer, Bayer Pharmaceuticals.
The lawsuit against Bayer involves thousands of American plaintiffs and a separate class-action lawsuit has also been initiated in Canada. Matthew Baer, a lawyer with the firm representing the plaintiffs in the Yasmine/Yaz lawsuit in Canada, explains that Bayer did not adequately warn consumers about the very serious risks specifically associated with Yasmine and Yaz.
How do these two contraceptives and their side-effects stand out from the rest? Women using them are four times more likely than women on other types of contraceptives to experience blood clots, stroke and gallbladder disease. Plaintiffs have reported severe chest and abdominal pain, digestion issues, and gallbladder problems. The pills can lead to life-threatening conditions such as cardiac arrest and pulmonary embolisms, or blood clots in the pulmonary artery leading to the lungs.
Baer says that these risks should have been “clearly stated [in the product packaging] so that individuals and their doctors could have made informed decisions about what product to use”. Sounds like a pharmaceutical giant has been withholding information from the public. I don’t think anyone’s surprised. Beyond this, the Yaz and Yasmine lawsuits have made it clear that lives are at stake and that corporations like Bayer must be held accountable for their lack of transparency.
“We believe that [through these lawsuits] Bayer will be required to explain to Canadian consumers what it knew about the risks associated with using Yasmin and Yaz and when it first became aware of those risks”… which, by the way, was more than a couple of years ago.
Being a woman that’s equal parts skeptic and paranoid, I had to find out what makes this product different from others such as Alesse (brand name for Aviane), Tricyclen, or Diane-35. Like several others of its kind, Yasmin and Yaz are combination oral contraceptives, containing both an estrogen and a progestin component. The estrogen component used in these pills is common to other combination oral contraceptives. It’s the progestin component, called drospirenone, that is the unique ingredient linked to a sixfold increase in the risk of experiencing those Yazerrific side-effects mentioned earlier.
Oh wait, about Diane-35… If you or a significant other are on it, I’d read about the Diane-35 consumer advisory on the Government of Canada website.
At this point, Miss Paranoid Skeptic perks up again. How did these contraceptives get approved by our dearest Health Canada, most recently in 2008, if the products’ warning labels weren’t properly informing consumers? Apparently Health Canada relies on the materials provided to it by drug manufacturers when approving drugs for the Canadian public. The responsibility lies in the hands of the drug company, which Baer states has “an ongoing responsibility to collect adverse event reports and continue to update the label as necessary”.
This is when Bayer Pharmaceuticals shrugs its shoulders and gives its cutesy ooops. The brand name and generic form (Ocella) contraceptives continue to be available on the market, despite studies that have revealed a heightened risk of potentially life-threatening side-effects. Bayer pharmaceuticals maintains that sufficient warnings about blood clots and other side effects are reflected on product labels.
So, what’d ya say we order an extra large widespread-controversy, a product recall, and an extra dose of corporate responsibility on the side? Siskinds law firm and a website dedicated to the Yasmine/Yaz lawsuits have already gotten the ball rolling on that.
If you’re a Yasmine or Yaz user, get informed about getting off these birth control pills and join the “Take Your Body Back” Facebook group.You can also watch Siskinds law firm’s YouTube video produced by Matthew Baer (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.