This past April 13, Bloomberg.com reported that Bayer was going to pay at least $100 million to settle about 500 lawsuits regarding injuries and death connected with the use of its Yasmin line of birth control which includes Yasmin and Yaz.
Maybe you’ve seen the ads on TV by lawyers looking for clients to join these lawsuits. The problem: young women dying of blood clots leading to heart attacks and strokes from these particular brands of “the pill.” No lament about the loss of life. Just the lament about falling stock values.
Why isn’t the death of young women news?
The fact that young women on “the pill” are more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, clots in leg veins, and clots in the lung while on the pill has been known since their inception. In fact, when several young women in Puerto Rico died when the pill was first tested for safety, the pill was still deemed safe enough for use by healthy young women. The increase in incidence of these sometimes fatal ailments was judged to be tolerably low enough for the continuing promotion of the pill.
Shockingly, fatalities in women were deemed worth the risk while cases of mildly shrinking testicles were enough to end trials of a birth control pill for men.
There were at least 50 deaths linked to Yasmin and Yaz from 2004 to 2008. But that does not mean they were the only brands of birth control pills linked to deaths. They were just singled out because they increased the “low” known risk 74 percent. In fact, all birth control pills are known to TRIPLE the risk of heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism (clots in the lung).
In medicine, doctors are used to balancing the risks and benefits when prescribing therapies. For instance, if you have a fatal cancer it is deemed worthy to take the many risks of chemotherapy because you have a fatal disease and chemotherapy is the only way you have a hope for cure.
But what about a young woman who does not have a life threatening disease? In fact, this young woman is healthy. She just wants to control her fertility. Should she be given a pill that could disable or kill her in her prime? Or should she be taught about her normal fertility cycle?
After all, what may be true in epidemiological terms, “a low risk,” is not low when it’s you or your daughter or your wife who is now disabled or dead from those risks.
Teaching takes more time than a quick script for the pill from the doctor. Yet a woman can learn to recognize her fertile times by the normal bodily changes she experiences with her menstrual cycle. A woman is only fertile only about 100 hours a month. During her fertile times she can . . . abstain from sexual intercourse . . . [rather than] put her life at risk.
Why should she be given a Group 1 carcinogen for breast, cervical, and liver cancer, again “the pill,” for the non-disease of “fertility” for three out of four weeks when she is fertile for only 100 hours a month? Triple the risk for heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolus, and cancer? The International Agency on Research of Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, listed the pill as a Group 1 carcinogen in 2005. I don’t remember seeing that on the 6 o’clock news. Do you? Why is a young woman’s life so devalued that risks of death and disability from the pill are deemed low enough to be inconsequential and “worth it”? Those risks are not even necessary to obtain her goal of fertility control. Is the specter of abstaining . . . so off putting that taking chances with her life (not his) seems so reasonable?
The pill does kill many women every year. Even a low risk if it’s taken by 82 percent of the 16 million women of reproductive age (15-45 years old) translates into thousands of deaths a year. The pill not only increases her risk of heart attack, stroke, lung clots, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver cancer, but it also increases her risk of contracting HPV (human papilloma virus) and contracting and transmitting HIV, the AIDS virus. It influences what partner she chooses and increases her risk of violent death.
These are the facts which are ignored and/or unknown by both women and their doctors. During the next months I will review the data that have established the four major ways the pill kills: clots, cancer, contagion, and violence.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at http://www.newfeminism.co/2012/05/the-pill-kills/.
Dr. Angela Lanfranchi is a breast cancer surgeon practicing in New Jersey since 1984. A 1975 graduate of Georgetown School of Medicine, she is a clinical assistant professor of surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and is certified by the American Board of Surgery. She is cofounder and president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, a non-profit charitable corporation that has as its mission to educate lay and professional communities in the methods of risk reduction and prevention of breast cancer through research, publications, and lectures. She is the author of articles on the physiology and epidemiology of the abortion-breast cancer risk.
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