Is My Birth Control Going to Kill Me?

We often view birth control the way we view vitamins: generally harmless to our bodies while delivering the effects we want. This may be true the majority of the time, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a seriously powerful drug that affects women’s bodies in profound ways, and many women have suffered serious and permanent injuries from birth control.

Lawsuits Here, There, and Everywhere!

You may have noticed a LOT of lawsuits regarding birth control in the media lately. Hopefully, this is good news. Successful lawsuits are victories for women. It means the companies that manufacture these items are being held accountable, and the expense of such suits should spur them to make safer medications in the future.

The increase in lawsuits is partly due to the large amount of options available now compared to 20 years ago. That means more can go wrong and result in litigation. Yet perhaps more importantly, the high level of competition between companies causes drugs and devices to hit the market with minimal testing. So warnings about side effects are often inadequate, and we hear about problems only after the products hit the shelves.


Educate Yourself

If you’re currently using birth control that has been involved in settlements, talk to your doctor about risks and potential symptoms to watch out for. You may even want to consider changing your birth control. Both Nuvaring and Yaz (also known as Yasmin and Ocella) have been implicated in recent lawsuits.

The Mirena IUD is also causing serious issues for women. It is particularly problematic because it can break free after being implanted and travel throughout the body, damaging organs and tissue. In one case, it even pierced a woman’s lung. Women often need major surgery to find and remove the device. And still the manufacturer claims it is not unduly dangerous and continues to heavily market the product.

Other contraceptives have been associated with increased risk of ectopic pregnancies and even cancer. The more you know about symptoms and the more you communicate with your doctor, the better equipped you will be to make smart decisions and recognize problems if they arise.

If You Think Something Is Wrong

The better you know your body, the easier it will be to notice if something is wrong. You should know if there is something unusual about your cycle or if you’re feeling ill for no known reason. Birth control is not supposed to hurt, so if you’re feeling pain that you can’t associate with anything other than your birth control, see your doctor immediately.

In fact, if you’re at all suspicious that your birth control is having a negative effect on your body, talk to your doctor. No one can replace your doctor as your primary source of information about any medication or medical device.

Next Steps

If you discover that you’ve developed problems caused by birth control, see a lawyer. In most cases, the legwork has already been done and you simply need to authorize a lawyer to gather medical records and file a suit on your behalf. It’s that easy.

Depending on how hard a company wants to fight a case, there may be depositions or courtroom appearances later, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Qualified lawyers only take cases where they are confident that the science supports the women they represent; therefore, most of the cases settle well before trial.

If you’re considering a new or different birth control or even if you’ve been happy with your current one, learn as much as you can about the risks involved. Make informed decisions about your well-being to avoid ending up in a lawyer’s office.

Michael Acosta

Michael Acosta is a partner at Acosta & Williams LLC. As an attorney, he specializes in the areas of pharmaceutical litigation, personal injury, premises liability, auto and truck accidents, toxic torts, property and air contamination, and wrongful death. He is licensed to practice in the courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Connect with Michael on Twitter and Google+.

One thought on “Is My Birth Control Going to Kill Me?

  • May 1, 2013 at 2:13 am

    This is a very serious topic both from the perspective of the consumer (patient) and the manufacturer (the pharmaceutical companies). There are stages in drug development starting from calling a potential material an Investigational New Drug (IND). Subsequently this substance undergoes vigorous tests starting from the Pre-Clinical to three Clinical Tests: Clinical Trial I, II and III. Then the material could become a candidate for approval by the relevant regulatory authorities. Even when this material hits the pharmacist’s and hospital shelves, the drug still continues to undergo post-marketing surveillance. I say these because a pharmaceutical company would be prima facie liable for any serious untoward effect of its product if it is found it has not subjected such a material through the aforementioned processes. All the effects and associated toxicities of the substance are products of these tests recorded in the drug literature. Oral contraceptives and other contraceptive devices are no exemption; they undergo all these tests and all results documented on the drug literature. However, it is to be stated here that there is no drug material that comes out with ALL the foreseen, foreseeable and unforeseen, non-foreseeable toxic effects; more toxic effects may begin to show even after 10, 20 or 30 years after the drug has been in the market or in circulation! The question is: should the society hold that pharmaceutical company liable for such toxicities appearing after this long time? The answer lies whether it was foreseeable that such toxicity would arise! If not, I don’t see why the pharmaceutical company should be held liable! But if this is the case, then the society would not be encouraging science, medicine and research because every company would become so litigation-conscious that it might have to withhold some important therapeutics for fear of litigation; and who suffers? The society suffers of course! This is similar to a situation where the courts would allow every trivial and annoying litigation by a client against his attorney on the grounds that such attorney was liable for professional malpractice that resulted in the client’s conviction! Or a doctor facing trial for professional malpractice over his inadequate treatment of a patient. In all these cases, the court would usually ask whether the professional followed all the guidelines associated with the handling of such a particular case. If yes, then such a litigation is dismissed for want of merit. Similarly, if the pharmaceutical company has followed all the guidelines associated with bringing such a drug to the market, then any litigation in the event of a toxicity which occurs so many years thereafter would be considered as lacking merit. In the industry there is NO way a pharmaceutical company would know ALL the toxicities associated with a drug after a period of 10, 20 or 30 years. However, if the toxicity arises within a short period of taking such a drug, say, a period less than 10 years, then the pharmaceutical company will have a case to answer.

    The above might sound a little bit inconsiderate but justice dictates that it should be apportioned fairly and proportionately to both sides in a litigation. Drug use and drug counseling is at the behest of the health practitioner who should know the best amongst all competing medications to prescribe for his patient; and in the event of any litigation, he should be joined in such lawsuit as a defendant.


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