Letter 12: From Lauren
Your story is devastating to hear. I am so sorry for the pain and confusion both you and your family were subjected to, especially at the hands of an industry that should function to help others live happy, healthy lives. As I read through the letters to you, I was struck by how you were misled and how your concerns were not taken seriously enough. I am disappointed that your family’s experience, and the stories of many others, have not been taken seriously enough. And I’m concerned that the lives of women trying to take control of their health haven’t been taken seriously enough to deserve better awareness of risks.
When I was prescribed the pill in high school, I was not told anything other than to take it at the same time every day. For four years, I had no idea that I was at an increased risk of blood clots. I certainly didn’t know what the symptoms of a clot were, and wouldn’t have known to go see a doctor. The first time I opened the pack and unfolded the huge pamphlet with tiny words, I was overwhelmed. I figured it didn’t say anything important. I was used to medications clearly spelling out the important risks right on the box. After being diagnosed with ovarian cysts, my doctor switched me over to a different brand of the pill. Although I had taken the pill for four years, she was the first person to speak with me about the risks and tell me what the warning signs were.
That same year, I joined a campus health education group, which focused on birth control information. I received training from my school’s Gynecology department, which told us about potential complications from hormonal birth control methods. For my three years in the program, I don’t remember hearing anything about Yaz, Yasmin, or other drospirenone-containing pills other than patients using those pills were told to avoid food high in potassium and drugs that would raise their potassium levels. Although my job was to discuss the different possible forms of birth control, like the IUD or pill, and not individual brands, it’s unfortunate that drospirenone was lumped into the group of safer pills. I wish its risks were more clearly communicated.
I have been hearing about efforts to ease the process of getting a birth control prescription, such as allowing pharmacists to write a prescription or websites that let you order birth control without speaking to a licensed physician. As someone passionate about reproductive rights, I have always supported making access and affordability a larger priority. With stories like yours, it is obvious that safety studies still need to be conducted, and that the entire process of drug testing needs to be improved. Rather than focusing on providing women with safe options, there seems to be a focus on expanding on the number of options without warning women of risks. Through your story, I hope to warn other women about drospirenone’s risks and encourage them to research safer birth control options. Your story is a tragedy, but I am grateful for having the chance to hear it and be inspired, along with countless others, to stay informed and proactive about my health care.