Even before Bayer Healthcare agreed to change the label on its No. 1 selling birth control pills, Yaz and Yasmin, to include an elevated risk of blood clots and other health problems, a citizen’s right advocacy group placed the oral contraceptive on its “Do Not Use” list. The move by Public Citizen was in direct response to the mounting lawsuits filed against the company alleging the pills caused high potassium levels that can cause the heart to slow down and allow life-threatening blood clots to form.
Yaz, and Bayer’s equivalent Yasmin, as well as the generic Ocella, are considered fourth-generation birth control pills. They contain a new type of synthetic progestin, drospirenone, that acts as a diuretic. The pills are promoted to not only prevent pregnancies but to also treat severe acne and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD.
As of November, the Food and Drug Administration had received 993 reports of pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs), 487 reports of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the deep veins), and 229 reports of other blood clots from birth control pills containing drospirenone.
Bayer stands by the safety of its blockbuster birth control pill, saying the pills carry the same health risk as any other type of oral contraceptive. However, two separate studies in the British Medical Journal claimed women were at as much as 6.3 times higher risk of developing blood clots when taking Yaz, Yasmin or Ocella. Recently, Bayer updated the labels of Yaz and Yasmin to include a risk of developing life-threatening blood clots.