The year Leah Mayfield died, Bayer HealthCare made $600 million on its popular birth control pill, Yaz. The drug, also known by the brand name Yasmin and the generic brand Ocella, was touted for the added benefit of stomping out the bothersome symptoms of severe premenstrual syndrome, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). It is the combination of ethinyl estradiol and the diuretic drospirenone that make Yaz different than other birth control pills. But that combination has proven deadly to numerous women who have taken it, including 20-year-old Leah.
The Tennessee Tech student had been taking the drug for about six months when she suddenly passed out in the shower. Her roommate called 911, and when Leah briefly regained consciousness, her roommate got her mother, Traci, on the phone. “Leah told me that she was scared, and that she was tingling all over,” Traci tells WREG-TV. “I told her it was going to be OK, that me and daddy was coming.”
But they arrived too late. Leah died less than an hour after she collapsed. Doctors say what killed her was a blood clot in her lung, also known as a pulmonary embolism. “How does this happen to a healthy 20-year-old lady?” Traci asks. The answer may be in the birth control pill she was taking.
The diuretic drospirenone that is in Yaz can cause an increase in potassium levels in the blood, which can lead to hyperkalemia, a condition that causes heart rhythm disturbances that can cause blood clots that can trigger cardiac death or pulmonary embolism or strokes. Diuretics also can cause significant problems with the gallbladder, leading to gallbladder removal.
The Mayfields have joined at least 50 other women injured by Yaz and filed a lawsuit against Bayer. The lawsuit alleges that the drug maker ignored the increased risks of Yaz and kept it on the market to enjoy mounting profits. Now Traci wants to warn others of the dangers of Yaz.
“(Leah) didn’t have to die,” Traci says. “She didn’t have to die because of a pill.