A Montara, Calif., woman has filed a lawsuit against Bayer Pharmaceuticals claiming the drug maker’s behavior was “despicable and so contemptible that it would have been looked down upon and despised by ordinary people.” The plaintiff, Louise Thanos, says she took Bayer’s Yasmin birth control pill from November 2007 to November 2009 and ended up with major health problems, including gallbladder failure. Thanos says she was never warned that Yasmin could cause potentially life-threatening blood clots, gallbladder issues, and other health problems.
Thanos is one of hundreds of women who have filed suit against Bayer, the makers of Yasmin, also known as Yaz and by the generic brand ocella. As the advertisements for the oral contraceptive say, Yasmin is a different type of birth control pill. The medication combines ethinyl estradiol with the diuretic drospirenone. The diuretic is considered the culprit, raising potassium levels in users’ blood, which can cause blood clots that can result in sudden cardiac death or pulmonary embolism or strokes. Diuretics also can cause significant problems with the gallbladder, leading to gallbladder removal.
But the advertisements for Yasmin focused on overstating the drug’s benefits as a treatment for premenstrual syndrome and acne control, and understating the serious risks associated with use of the drug. As a result, the FDA penalized Bayer, ordering it to spend $20 million on ads to clarify its use and the risks associated. The hundreds of plaintiffs in lawsuits against Bayer say it was too little too late.
Bayer released a statement to the San Mateo County Times stating it will “defend itself vigorously against these lawsuits.”