Sunday, August 24, 2014

Birth Control Pill Side Effects

Ortho Evra transdermal birth control patch was a revolutionary development when it was released in 2002 by Ortho-McNeil, a division of Johnson & Johnson, as an allegedly safe alternative to the traditional birth control bill. It was marketed as an allegedly simpler alternative to easily forgotten birth control pills, with the same benefits and risks.
The patch, as it is commonly called, is a sticky piece of plastic that contains elevated doses of estrogen and progestin in order to inhibit pregnancy that a woman attaches to her upper outer arm, buttocks, thigh, or abdomen on the first day of her menstrual cycle. During the week the patch releases a controlled amount of hormones into the bloodstream, and at the end of the week the patch is removed and replaced with another one. The last week of the month is patchless, allowing a woman to have her period normally.
Unfortunately, scientists and doctors have known for decades that elevated levels of estrogen can have serious and potentially fatal consequences. The original birth control pills from the 1960s contained more estrogen than necessary to prevent pregnancy, but doctors discovered that high levels of estrogen could cause heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolisms, and blood clots. By 1973 American doctors could prescribe birth control pills with a significantly reduced amount of estrogen, thereby limiting the potential risks to an acceptable level.
At the dawn of the 21st century doctors and scientists apparently forgot the earlier dangers of elevated levels of estrogen, for the Ortho Evra patch contains almost 60% more estrogen than current birth control pills. Most birth control pills contain 35 micrograms of estrogen, but the patch contains significantly higher amounts of hormones. The reasoning behind the elevated amount of hormones in the patch is because there is more lost through the absorption through the skin rather than directly into the blood through digestion. While some women can handle these levels of estrogen with no problem, many others suffer serious and potentially-fatal side effects.
Studies began to show that the patch was three times as likely to cause fatalities as traditional oral contraceptives. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that they receive between 1% and 10% of all reports of death or adverse reaction, so the actual death rates may be much higher.
The main issue at hand is that Ortho-McNeil marketed the patch as just as safe as conventional birth control pills. By September 2006 the Food and Drug Administration required the label on the Ortho Evra package to indicate the potential risks of using the patch in response to several deaths of otherwise healthy young women due to cardiovascular problems. In 2004 12 women died due to the side effects of the patch, and dozens of other women suffered strokes, heart attacks, blood clots, and pulmonary embolisms. Currently there are approximately 400 lawsuits pending against Ortho-McNeil.

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