The Only Way Women Can Tell if Their Birth Control Pills Are Safe

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birth control pillsSurprise, surprise! The former head of the FDA, David Kessler, has said that Bayer, the company that manufactures creeptastic birth control pills Yasmin and Yaz, reportedly withheld company research involving increased reports of blood clots in its pills' users ... all the way back in 2004. The drug company "presented a selective view of the data, and that presentation obscured the potential risks associated with Yasmin."

It's no wonder the company is now facing more than 10,000 lawsuits, which claim Bayer didn't warn patients of the health risks of the Yasmin and Yaz birth control pills. They're also in trouble for marketing the drug for unapproved uses, like PMS and acne.

While troubling, it's not like we didn't already know these drugs present a higher risk ... 

Thankfully, the FDA conducted their own independent research that proved there's a heightened risk of blood clots -- up to a 75 PERCENT greater chance over older forms of the pill! -- from newer birth control pills (such as Bayer's Yasmin and Yaz, Johnson & Johnson's Ortho Evra patch, and Merck's Nuvaring). Still, the fact that Bayer deceived the FDA and the public should freak us out.

When a friend of mine recently told me she wanted to go on a birth control pill, I pleaded with her to read up on any brand her doctor "recommended" to her. Because her doc's recommendation might simply be based on which pharmaceutical rep she's being pressured by this month, and now we know for certain that the FDA hasn't been exactly thorough or forthright about the risks associated with different brands. There's so much being hidden by drug companies and even the government, their warnings about risks involved with their drugs just aren't good enough. It only hurts not to consider independent research and what other women have to say.

The fact is, as much as we would like to, we can never blindly trust any prescription. We have to be our own health advocates and research the prescriptions we fill to truly weigh out the pros and cons of any drug -- especially when jumping into an even month-long commitment to a birth control pill.

Are you surprised Bayer kept info from the FDA? Do you always make a point to research your prescriptions, especially your birth control pills?


Image via brains the head/Flickr

birth control, drugs

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Colet... Colette923

That's why I have a copper iud.

kebrowni kebrowni

No to the first question, yes to the second. My sister took Yaz a couple years ago and had a few blood clots in her legs. I took the pill for 8 years (biggest issue was headaches) and then went off it so I could have my son. I tried the copper IUD afterwards and had to have it surgically removed. I have since gone on the NuvaRing with no issues.

nonmember avatar KT

People should read those little packets they squish into the birth control pills. They have all the warnings and side effects listed on there. I have liver tumors and melasma, both caused by taking birth control pills and I found this out from my doctor. When I got home I read the information and there were MY side effects...written plain as day. I guess liver tumors and melasma are better than having a baby I'm not ready for...ugh!

Courtney Jefferson

I tried Yaz and about 2 months in I ended up with a severe kidney infection. Something I had never had before, and I had never had a UTI so I know it wasn't caused by that. Turns out that theres research to show that Yaz has been linked to kidney infections. No more synthetic hormones for me. I might try the copper IUD when i am officially in the military and have better health insurance.

yayhe... yayheadstart

i have the copper iud too. It's awesome! I am nervous about ANY hormonal b/c so i didn't have many options but i would have chosen it regardless. And no i am not surprised by any shady stuff big corporations do. And that is really sad. It shouldn't be that way.

nonmember avatar glassxballerina

I've taken Yaz for the past two and a half years, but switched to the generic (Gianvi, I think) right when it came out. No problems to report! I'm very happy with it and would not want to switch.

Why is Bayer creeptastic?

ohbladi ohbladi

Glass, it's creeptastic that the comapnies lied and covered up info showing their products caused blood clots for some women...up to 75% more blood clots. They sold a product without disclosing some health risks, knowing some women would be hurt, some of whom would have chosen not to use the product if they knew they were at particular risk for the complication. Sounds creeptastic to me. Medications should  be made, advertised, and sold with HEALTH and SAFETY in mind first, before profits...people should be able to easily know the risks of a medication, and medications which are too risky to too many people should not be on the shelf for a few years until the FDA catches on and gives a crap enough to pull it. Pharmaceutical companies need a freaking heart, but since that's not going to happen, the FDA at least should be holding them to their claims. Otherwise, a pharmaceutical company is as dangerous as any other drug dealer.

nonmember avatar Blakery

1. Anything is a calculated risk, even over the counter medications. Data on risks are aggregate. Just because one person didn't respond well to an IUD doesn't mean it isn't a safe form of BC, or that isn't a good choice for some people. Just because something happened close to you doesn't increase the risks. Not using any BC and getting pregnant carries its own risk.

2. These numbers mean specific things in a scientific context.
An increase in risk is a percentage increase, based on the original risk. So if the original risk is 1%, a 5% increase does not mean the risk is 6%. It means it is now 1.05%. A 75% increase is 1.75%.
This may not even be statistically significant. If a complication is 1 in 1000 normally, and the medication increased the risk to 2 in 1000 (100% increase!), and your study population is 3000 in each group, that is 3 vs 6 cases. In a given population, that change may be so small that it could be chance. Read about P values for more info.
Furthermore, simply designing a study in slightly different ways or running statistics differently may change the results.

Any form of misreporting data is unscientific and ethically indefensible. It is in no way right. And the drug may in fact be problematic. I haven't read the study(s). It might be a significant, unnecessary risk. Or it might not.
You should look at all the relevant data, talk it over with someone who understands it (hopefully your doctor), and don't panic because of one study.

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