Since 1550 B.C. humans have been experimenting with various forms of birth control. Over the last century, our options have come a long way since homemade fruit and wool concoctions.
In the early 1950s Researcher, Gregory Pincus, and Margaret Sanger, founder of the modern day, Planned Parenthood, began researching the use of hormones in contraceptives. Mexican chemist, Carl Djesarri created the first progesterone pill. A few years later, the first clinical trial was conducted in Massachusetts with 50 women volunteers.
Once on the market, almost half a million American women began taking the pill for therapeutic purposes, such as difficulties with their menstrual cycle. In May 1960, the FDA approved Envoid as a form of birth control.
50 Years later, women have the amount of birth control options have improved. However, although the amount of options has improved, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the new birth control options are improvements.
Consumers first learned in the 1970s that birth control pills came with side effects. As a result, the manufacturers began using a lower dose hormone, but warnings for side effects such as Stroke, DVT, Pulmonary Embolism, and Blood Clots, among others, are still named on the packaging inserts. In the 1970s, Chemists took a step to make new birth control safer than the predecessor, yet, today’s options are carrying more risks.
Below is a list of some of the newer forms of birth control available to women today along with the newer risks that accompany these products.
The Pill-Third Generation Pills such as Yaz and Yasmin contain a third-generation form of it progestin called drospirenone, which is believed to carry a higher risk for blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks, than earlier forms or progestin. In April 2012, Bayer announced they would pay out over $100 million to settle claims of injuries caused by Yaz and Yasmin.
The Patch– For women who can’t remember to take the pill every day, the patch, replaced just once a week, was a nice option. However, in 2008 Johnson & Johnson paid out $68 million to 4,000 women who claimed the company hid or altered data about the risks of high levels of estrogen in the Ortho Evra Patch. These women suffered severe injuries, including deep-vein thrombosis, blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, and some death, as a result of using the patch.
The Shot– This hormone injection, usually given in the arm lasts three months. There is no weekly or monthly ritual for the patient, however. On November 17, 2004 Pfizer and the FDA added a Black Box Warning Depo Provera’s label advising of the potential risk of osteoporosis. In 2010, Pfizer settled several Class Action Lawsuits filed by women who suffered Osteoporosis resulting from the Depo Shot.
The IUD– intrauterine devices are a more long term form of birth control. Mirena, a plastic hormonal IUD will need to be replaced after 5 years, while the copper, non-hormonal alternative, Paragard, will last about 10 years. IUDs are recommended for women who have already had children. In 2009, Bayer sent out a warning label advising that its Mirena commercials were somewhat misleading in that they overstated the efficiency and understated the risks.
The Ring-This flexible plastic ring works similar to the patch, and is preferred by women who like the convenience of not having to remember to take the pill every day. However, last month, a Danish Study published in the British Journal of Medicine warns that women have a 6.5% increased risk of venous thrombosis compared to women who use birth control pills. While these risks are just coming to light now, NuvaRing lawsuits have been in suit since 2008. These lawsuits against Organon Pharmaceuticals, now part of Merck, continue to grow as more and more women are experiencing serious side effects as result of using NuvaRing.
NuvaRing has become one of the most popular forms of birth control. In 2010, there were more than 5.5 million prescriptions for NuvaRing. In addition to Nuva Ring increasing the risk for Blood Clots, Deep Vein Thrombosis, and Pulmonary Embolisms, woman who use the ring may be more susceptible to strokes and heart attacks.
As birth control options have increased, so have the complications, and the number of lawsuits brought on by injured women who believed these new forms of birth control were no more risky than the industry’s predecessors.
Shouldn’t birth control have gotten better over the last 50 years? While the amount of options available to us has gotten better, the quality has not. It’s great to have different options to fit everyone’s needs, but scientists should be putting their time into making safer products not just innovative products.
After 60 years of birth control evolution, women deserve safer, more effective options than those that were available to the pills early adopters.