Letter 1: From Claire
I want to write to you because your story resonates deeply with me as a young woman.
Learning about your initial symptoms and countless doctors’ appointments, I can’t help
but put myself in your shoes.
When you developed symptoms like insomnia, headaches, depression, hair loss, and weight gain, you were proactive in seeing your doctor and continued to exercise and eat well. You were persistent when you didn’t get the answers you needed. When I am not feeling right, I sometimes delay seeing a doctor, especially when I am at college and far from my home physician. You did everything right, suspecting before your death that your symptoms were caused by your Yaz birth control. You were not a victim but an advocate for your own health hurt by a broken regulatory system, a drug industry driven by money, not safety, and a frustratingly bureaucratic health system.
Your story has shaken me out of my complacency.
Your parents stood before the FDA’s Advisory Committee to highlight what the evidence already says: Yaz birth control and its sister products made by Bayer and generic drug companies, are twice as dangerous as other birth control pills on the market. The FDA has acknowledged that birth control pills that contain the hormone drospirenone carry a higher risk for blood clots. These dangerous birth control pills should no longer be prescribed to women.
Where am I expected to turn for honest, clear, and potentially life-saving information about birth control? If the FDA doesn’t remove drugs from the market when they are proven to be more dangerous than others available, if the story of young women dying appears as a mere blip in the media and doctors continue to prescribe risky birth control options, how can I make informed decisions about my health? I want to fight for information about my health like you did when you knew something wasn’t right.
When I mentioned the risks of Yaz to my friends, most had already heard that they should avoid it. But what about Beyaz and Safyral and the generic versions of Yaz that have different names but the same hormone and risks? To make sense of the varied birth control options available to a 20-something like me, I trusted that a new drug, vetted by a government agency and prescribed by a doctor, will be the most cutting edge and effective one on the market. Your story and the voices of those who have loved and lost a young, healthy woman in their lives have opened my eyes.
I hope that I can somehow honor you by being vigilant about my health. I don’t want to be apathetic like so many government lawmakers and officials in the wake of your death; but instead I want to fight for accountability from drug companies like Bayer and from the FDA regulatory system that failed you. Your story has the power to make change and I hope to be a part of that movement.
American University Class of 2016