Clots and Birth Control

Feb 7, 2011

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

What do you call a million lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start. What happens when you give a lawyer Viagra? He gets taller. What is the difference between a wood tick and a lawyer? A tick falls off you when you die. What do you call a lawyer who doesnt chase ambulances? Retired. I could go on. At the risk of having all my esteemed colleagues in the legal profession stringing me up, Id just like to say that certain members of their profession have done an excellent job of scaring women about their birth control pill. In my opinion this fear of birth control pills is out of proportion with the actual risk.

We have had several inquiries at the pharmacy lately about the relatively new birth control pills Yaz and Yasmin. The calls have come from patients, their mothers and their doctors. All the calls have been about whether Yaz and Yasmin cause blot clots. You see many lawyers in the United States are suing the makers of Yaz and Yasmin, Bayer. You have probably seen their ads on American TV saying they can get you money from the drug company if you have taken Yaz or Yasmin sign up with their law firm. Class action lawsuits have started up in Canada as well.

Then in January the CBC television show, Market Place, did an expose. It was how the evil drug company was killing off young women for profit and how the medical establishment was covering it up. That caused more scared women to phone the pharmacy. So, are Yaz and Yasmin evil? In my opinion, no. But I am part of the evil medical establishment.

Yasmin and Yaz have been sold in Canada for about the last 6 years. Yaz has the interesting distinction that a patient takes the active pill for 24 days, instead of the usual 21. That can mean a shorter menstrual period. Both Yaz and Yasmin were advertised as causing less weight gain, less acne and less PMS like symptoms. Most birth control pills have an estrogen like component and a progestin. Although their actions in the body are complicated, these two hormone like chemicals prevent a women from ovulating. That means a woman on the pill wont produce an egg once a month and so cant get pregnant. What makes Yaz and Yasmin different is the progestin in them. It is called drospirenone.

Drospirenone is where the lawyers come in. Two studies in Europe, one called the Dutch Mega Study and the other done in Denmark seemed to show that drospirenone caused more blood clots that other birth control pills. So the lawyers have jumped all over this and started class action lawsuits. The problem is there have been several large studies saying drospirenone is safe and large groups of experts like the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Cananda (SOGC) say the negative drospirenone studies are flawed.

Now I am not making light of the women who have had blood clots on Yaz or Yasmin. Blood clots in your legs or lungs are very serious. They can be fatal. But they are a possibility with any birth control pill. Other risk factors for getting clots are age, cigarette smoking, immobility, obesity and pregnancy. That is one of the reasons why we dont want smokers over 35 on the pill. The risk of clots in women who are not on the pill is 4-5/10,000 per women per year. It goes up to 9-10/10,000 if a person is on ANY birth control pill. You might think that is a small but scary number. But you must put it in perspective. Women have a clotting rate of 29/10,000 during pregnancy and that risk goes up to 300-400/10,000 immediately after they deliver their child.

The CBC television show Market Place interviewed a women who suffered a blood clot in her lung and the family of a woman who died of a blood clot in the lung. These women were both on Yasmin.


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