Bayer Healthcare Corp. says it sufficiently warned women that there was a risk of life-threatening side effects associated with its oral contraceptives, Yaz and Yasmin. The drug company claims that all birth control pills carry warnings of possible side effects and that if taken properly, their drugs are safe.
But a group of 50 women in Indianapolis say Bayer is wrong. They are the latest victims to file lawsuits against the drug company, alleging the new formulation of birth control pills caused heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and other health problems.
Yaz and Yasmin, also known by the generic brand Ocella, is as the company’s ads claim – different than other birth control pills. Bayer’s top-selling contraceptive drugs contain ethinyl estradiol plus drospirenone. Drospirenone is a diuretic, which the lawsuits argue can lead to dangerously high levels of potassium, which can lead to hyperkalema. Hyperkalema is a condition that can cause heart rhythm disturbances, which can trigger blood clots and sudden cardiac death or pulmonary embolism or strokes.
The lawsuits allege that Yaz and Yasmin are more aggressive than other oral contraceptives and have left plaintiffs with blood clots and pulmonary embolisms in their legs and lungs. Many had to have their gallbladders removed. Others suffered strokes.
Yet, Bayer, which reaped more than $600 million in sales in 2008, says it is not at fault. “The complaints we have reviewed so far pertain to side effects that are warned about in the labeling of all oral contraceptives, including ours,” according to a statement from Bayer spokeswoman Rose Talarie.