Yaz and Yasmine: Are These Birth Control Pills Safe?

Anne Marie Eakins, a 34-year-old history teacher in Grafton, OH, developed blood clots in both lungs in 2007 and even lost partial use of her right lung. The cause, as she sees it? The newish oral contraceptive Yaz, the top-selling birth control pill in the US, which she switched to after a decade of using different kinds of birth control pills without incurring health problems. She is now suing the makers, Bayer HealthCare pharmaceuticals.

Like 74 other plaintiffs against the makers of Yaz and its sister pill, Yasmine, which was introduced a few years before, Eakins decided to make the switch in part because of the added benefits touted in multimillion dollar ads that ran on television. Yaz, which contains even less estrogen than low-estrogen Yasmine, is advertised as a product that could reduce acne and severe PMS, in addition to preventing pregnancy. How do Yaz and Yasmine differ from other birth control pills? To find out, read more.

Although both Yaz and Yasmine come with the standard warning that the hormones in birth control pills (estrogen plus progestin) can increase the risk of stroke and blood clots in a woman's legs or lungs, lawyers representing the plaintiffs and regulatory agencies claim that Bayer's ads overstate the products' effectiveness and don't adequately warn of possibly higher risks of clots unique to Yaz and Yasmine.

They say Bayer doesn't take into account research that indicated that a hormone unique to the products (drospirenone) increases the likelihood of clots compared to birth control that has the standard levonorgestrel hormone. (Lawyers claim Bayer relied on its research findings in Germany that concluded there is the same risk, over Dutch and Danish research that had the opposite conclusion.) Other criticisms are equally troubling: that the manufacturing plants in Germany responsible for the hormones in Yaz and Yasmine differ in quality control from what is required for US products; that studies conducted were performed with an ethnically homogeneous group, not taking into account blood-clot risk factors in a more ethnically variable US market; and finally, that Yaz and Yasmine are marketed for conditions like PMS, for which the drug is not approved.

I considered switching to these kinds of birth control pills because of the claim that they prevented severe PMS. Do you believe the marketing for products like Yaz and Yasmine or do you do your research before you buy?

Source: Getty
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