Letter 13: The Media
After all of the irregularities and even dishonesty at the FDA’s Advisory Committee
meeting, we expected questions and perhaps even outrage by the media, medical
organizations, women’s rights groups, perhaps a congressperson. That is not what
Reporters from major newspapers and TV networks were at the public meeting, but
the press attention was short-lived. A brief mention that evening, in some
newspapers the next day, and then silence. We were interviewed by CBS several
days before the hearing and that interview was shown in its entirety on the day of the hearing, then clipped and shown only a couple more times, and never during prime news times.
We told your tragic story and recommended that young women not take Yaz. We showed beautiful pictures of a healthy you. But our words were negated by a white-coated medical representative who appeared at the end to state that your case was an anomaly since death from these birth control pills was a rare occurrence. There was nobody to point out that even a rare death among the millions of women taking drospirenone birth control means thousands have died or been irrevocably harmed. That’s not my definition of “rarity”.
I need to tell you, Annie, that right after the 2011 meeting, Bayer announced that the company did not plan to remove any of its Yaz, Beyaz, or Yasmin products off the market in any part of the world because its shareholders were happy that it had enough reserves to handle the legal costs. I can only conclude that in Bayer’s business model, money comes before safety. Since their drugs are now off patent, there are about ten other generic birth control pills that contain the same dangerous hormone. Even the doctors and women who may have heard that Yaz is unsafe often do not know that the generic versions of these drugs, which have different names, are also unsafe.
The public would know if the media did a better job of covering the story. But, death by blood clot somehow does not grab media attention. I always feared for you since you were a most creatively active child, but I never imagined that you would die before me by a pill prescribed by physicians. After almost 6 years, there are days when I still cannot get a grip on how such an atrocity can happen over and over again in a modern democratic country without cries of outrage from many different societal watchdogs.
Annie, you would have loved our current next door neighbor; she was a nurse for 30 years and is now a hospital administrator, and she gets teary-eyed every time I speak to her about your death. She truly understands our outrage and how powerless we feel. She told me about an interview on the TODAY Show that was just ending as she turned on her set. Thanks to the internet, I was able to read a summary later that day.
I never thought the TODAY Show could be so inaccurate and biased. I get furious just thinking about it. Let me try to cool off and I’ll tell you about it in my next letter.