Oral contraception is the chosen method of birth control for many women. It can be a safe, effective, and convenient way to prevent pregnancy, but because it is an oral medication, there are usually side effects. Depending on the brand of oral contraceptive a woman chooses, side affects can be little more than a nuisance. Many women experience mild mood swings, bloating, and weight gain, but the trade-off is peace of mind concerning pregnancy.
Unfortunately, users have reported the Yaz brand of birth control triggers side effects far worse than those listed above. Yaz hit the market in 2006. It was considered an innovative oral contraceptive because it contained drospirenone, which is a synthetic form of the female sex hormone progesterone, or progestin. Many women chose the Yaz brand because it came with the promise of alleviating excess weight from bloating and easing other premenstrual symptoms. Unfortunately, the benefits might have led to serious medical conditions for many Yaz users.
One such concern is the health of the gallbladder. Research shows Yaz increases a woman’s risk for developing gallbladder disease by 20%.
What is Gallbladder Disease?
The gallbladder is an organ that is responsible for storing the bile produced by the liver. Bile is the liquid the body uses in the digestive process. Gallbladder disease triggers a variety of health issues including:
- Gallstones – occur when bile crystallizes into painful stones
- Gallbladder pancreatitis – occur when gallstones block the pancreas, which triggers inflammation in the pancreas. This can be fatal.
- Gallbladder cancer
Gallbladder disease is a serious condition and the remedy is usually gallbladder removal surgery (cholecysteomy). Once the gallbladder is removed, people often struggle with digestive problems that can last indefinitely. There is also an elevated risk a person will develop postcholecystectomy, a condition that causes gas, pain, bloating, and vomiting, following gallbladder surgery.
Link between Yaz and Gallbladder Disease
Research seems to indicate the risk from using Yaz birth control is caused by the synthetic hormones found in the pill. Of particular interest is the diuretic effect of drospirenone. Diuretics tend to cause dehydration, especially if a user is unaware of the problem and does little to counteract the effect. The presence of drospirenone also appears to impede bile flow in the gallbladder. Additionally, some studies show Yaz increases cholesterol levels, which can lead to its calcification in the gallbladder.
Lawsuits Mount in Response to Gallbladder Problems Triggered by Yaz Use
The manufacturer of Yaz, Bayer Healthcare, believes the research linking their drug and gallbladder disease is weak. One study utilized the IMS LifeLink Health Plan Claims Database and found a potential link between drospirenone and gallbladder disease. The study included the following statement concerning the data:
“In a large cohort of women using oral contraceptives, we found a small, statistically significant increase in the risk of gallbladder disease associated with desogestrel, drospirenone and norethindrone compared with levonorgestrel. However, the small effect sizes compounded with the possibility of residual biases in this observational study make it unlikely that these differences are clinically significant.”
Though the findings were considered a “statistically significant” increase in risk, Bayer Healthcare references the final line of analysis that states the overall findings were “unlikely… clinically significant” to defend the company’s position.
Despite Bayer Healthcare’s defense of their drug, consumers are still taking action. Lawsuits alleging responsibility for health problems related to Yaz are being filed in both state and federal courts. There is also evidence Yaz might trigger other health problems, including stroke, heart attacks, pulmonary embolism, and blood clots.
Most recently, a federal judge leading multidistrict litigation in Illinois postponed a bellwether trial that was scheduled for the beginning of 2014. Cases in other states have been postponed as well. The judge ordered parties involved to mediation. There are more than 10,000 Yaz gallbladder suits in process, but the courts will first deal with cases involving pulmonary embolism, another risk associated with the drug.
According to recent data issued by Bayer Healthcare, about 8,800 claimants have agreed to resolve claims involving gallbladder injuries.
If you would like to know more about the dangers associated with using Yaz or any of its associated products, including Yasmin, or the generic versions Ocella or Gianvi, we can help. Consumers need information about their options and should understand their rights regarding injury. You might be entitled to compensation if you have suffered gallbladder problems as a result of taking oral contraceptives.