FDA panel recommends stricter blood clot warnings on Yaz

Packs of Yaz and other birth control pills containing the hormone drospirenone should be updated to include a warning that the pills may be more likely to cause life threatening blood clots than older oral contraceptives, according to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel. The expert board was charged by the FDA with reviewing new data on the safety of the pills and recommending what action the federal agency should take.

Yaz, made by Bayer, is a newer generation birth control pill that contains the manmade hormone drospirenone, which is designed to mimic the naturally occurring female hormone progesterone. The pill was heavily promoted as an oral contraceptive that could also clear up acne and remedy the bothersome symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. It soon became the nation’s top selling birth control pill.

Bayer has since been fined for making such claims and ordered to run revision ads. Other pills that contain drospirenone include Bayer’s Yasmin, Beyaz and Safyral. Generic varieties are also available.

All birth control pills have a slight risk for blood clots. But recent studies have suggested that the risk of blood clots with drospirenone is higher. Bayer currently faces thousands of lawsuits from women who say they were not adequately warned that using Yaz and pills like it could put them at risk for dangerous blood clots that can lead to stroke, heart attack and death.

The most recent studies convinced the FDA that the safety of drospirenone-containing pills needed a closer look.

Panelists spent more than nine hours discussing the data on blood clot risk with drospirenone pills compared to those with older hormones. While there was discrepancy on the authenticity of the studies, nearly the entire panel voted that the label should clearly state the potential for potentially fatal blood clots.

The fate of Yaz and its similar birth control pills now falls on the FDA. The agency is not required to follow the advice of its panels, but it usually does.