NuvaRing is a contraceptive device that is inserted into the vagina once a month. It is the first and only birth control ring in the global contraceptive market. In 2011, NuvaRing reached $623 million in global sales. It was introduced in 2001, and has since earned more than 5.5 million prescriptions. Many believe that the popularity of NuvaRing is partially due to its convenience compared to a daily birth control pill. In a study of satisfaction level, 87 percent of women were highly satisfied after three months of using NuvaRing. While NuvaRing is easy-to-use and 99 percent effective, it has significant risks. More than a thousand NuvaRing users have filed lawsuits the manufacturer, Merck. These women claim that NuvaRing is defective. Lawsuits also allege negligence and deception from Merck.
How NuvaRing Works
Each day, NuvaRing releases a continuous dose of hormones. It provides a daily dose of 0.12 milligrams of etonogestrel, which is a member of the progestin hormone family. NuvaRing also releases a daily 0.015 milligram dose of ethinyl estradiol, a member of the estrogen family. Since NuvaRing releases a combination of hormones, it belongs to a class of contraceptives called combined hormonal contraceptives. The hormones released by NuvaRing work to prevent pregnancy in several ways. The hormones prevent ovulation and change the user’s cervical mucus so that sperm has more difficulty entering the cervix. The hormones also reduce the likelihood of the egg’s implantation.
NuvaRing Side Effects
NuvaRing is associated with a range of serious side effects. Among the most dangerous are the risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. The NuvaRing warning label includes increased risk of developing arterial, venous, and pulmonary embolisms. Venous thromboembolisms are blood clots which may form in the arms, groin, or legs. These blood clots then break away and travel to the lungs, creating a pulmonary embolism. If the patient’s airways are blocked, a pulmonary embolism can be fatal. The most common NuvaRing side effects include irritation and infection of the vagina, vaginal discharge, weight gain, headache, and nausea. Other side effects include increased risk of developing certain types of cancer and worsening of pre-existing medical conditions. NuvaRing and other combined hormonal contraceptives can also cause:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Irregular vaginal bleeding
- Unusual weakness
- Changes in mood, such as depression
- Increased risk of developing cervical and breast cancer
- Benign or cancerous breast lumps
- Growth of benign liver tumors that can lead to deadly internal bleeding
- Jaundice, or yellowing of the eyes and skin
- Worsening of preexisting conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure
- Toxic shock syndrome, including high fever, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, and fainting
- Severe swelling and pain in the abdomen which can be associated with liver or gallbladder issues
NuvaRing Clinical Studies
In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration released a report featuring the results of a NuvaRing. The study examined roughly 800,000 NuvaRing users. The results indicated that NuvaRing users had a higher risk of developing venous thromboembolism than women who used low-dose birth control pills. An additional year-long study showed that vaginal contraceptive rings have a 6.5 times increased risk of developing venous thrombosis when compared to women who do not use hormonal contraceptives. Women who use transdermal patches have a 7.9 times increased risk of venous thrombosis. The New England Journal of Medicine also published a study that collected 15 years’ worth of data. It indicated that NuvaRing users also had an increased risk of suffering heart attacks and thrombotic strokes.
A number of lawsuits were filed against Merck for the dangerous side effects of NuvaRing. Plaintiffs claim that Merck failed to conduct adequate testing on the product before releasing it to the public. Merck is also accused of engaging in deceptive NuvaRing marketing and failing to warn users of the dangers of using NuvaRing.