Oral contraceptives have been linked to a variety of health conditions. One such instance includes deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Research and anecdotal evidence link the oral contraceptive sold under the brand name Yaz with a two to three time increase in risk for pulmonary embolism. Furthermore, plaintiffs in the lawsuits filed against Bayer Healthcare, the maker of Yaz, allege the minimal warnings provided by the company relating to the drug did little to communicate the true danger associated with taking it.
What is Pulmonary Embolism?
Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot moves from its point of origin to the lungs. When blood clots form in deep arteries in the body (usually the legs), the clots are likely to break free and move to other parts of the body, including the lungs. This can create a blockage to a coronary artery which can have severe consequences, including heart attack and death.
Several medical studies have linked oral contraceptives with an increased risk of forming blood clots, specifically those related to deep vein thrombosis. The increase in clots leads to an increase in risk for the clots to break free and causing serious damage, including pulmonary embolism.
The symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:
- Pain when breathing, especially during deep breaths
- Unexplained shortness of breath or rapid breathing
- Coughing with presence of blood
- Increased heart rate
Link between Yaz and Pulmonary Embolism
Research indicates the link between pulmonary embolism and Yaz usage is caused by the synthetic hormone progesterone present in the pills. Progesterone, or progestin, is a female sex hormone and Yaz uses a synthetic version known as drospirenone. Drospirenone has a diuretic effect, which helps to alleviate water weight, but also comes with a variety of negative side effects.
In addition to pulmonary embolism, Yaz usage has also been linked with increased heart attack and gallbladder disease risk. There is also evidence drospirenone increases potassium levels to a dangerous degree.
Bayer Healthcare claims the risk of taking the oral contraceptive is no different than it is with any other type of birth control pill. Studies show this is likely not the case. A 2011 study published in the British Medical Journal indicated there is a six times increased likelihood users of Yaz will experience blood clotting. Researchers acknowledge the presence of estrogen in all birth control pills boosts the risk of clotting, but note that the addition of progestin in Yaz makes this risk much greater.
Lawsuits Mount in Response to Pulmonary Embolism Triggered by Yaz Use
More than 12,000 women have filed lawsuits related to the side effects of Yaz. Bayer Healthcare has already paid more than $1.6 billion in settlements related to Yaz and has earmarked additional money for future settlements.
The most recent data shows Bayer Healthcare has settled more than 7,500 claims as of November 2013 related to deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Approximately 5,000 lawsuits throughout the country still remain. Litigation has been consolidated at the federal level to an MDL in Illinois, making it one of the largest MDLs in US history.
The lawsuits claim Bayer Healthcare failed to notify Yaz users of the danger associated with their oral contraceptive use.
In addition to the federal MDL cases, Bayer Healthcare also faces a lawsuit from the State of Kentucky related to fraud in marketing charges. There is an additional class action suit in process in Israel.
If you would like to know more about the dangers associated with using Yaz or any of its associated products, including Yasmin, Ocella, or Gianvi, we can help. Consumers should be informed about their options and understand what they can do to protect their rights if they have been injured as the result of taking oral contraceptives.