Letter 14: The TV Experts Aren't Experts

 

Dear Annie,

 

As I mentioned in my last letter, after more than a year of silence in the media about

Yaz and other risky birth control products made with drosperinone, the TODAY show

decided to revive the topic when a new study came out in May, 2015.

 

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) published the results of a study done at Britain’s

University of Nottingham. A team there looked at data from 10,000 women across

Britain. About half of them had been diagnosed with a blood clot.  The team wrote

“In this observational study based on two large primary care databases, women

exposed to drospirenone, gestodene, cyproterone, and desogestal within the last 28 days had around a four times increased risk of VTE.”  VTE refers to blood clots in the veins.  The study did an important service in looking not just at the hormone in your birth control pills, but hormones in other contraceptives.    They found that women taking the type of hormones found in older, still popular birth control pills had a much lower risk of blood clots – although still higher than women not taking birth control pills at all.

 

The TODAY Show invited Dr. Barbara Levy, vice president for health policy for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, to comment on the BMJ study.  Dr. Levy insisted that even with the newer progestins, the risk of a blood clot is very low.  She pointed out that pregnancy increases the risk of a blood clot even more.  While it is true that pregnancy is riskier than these contraceptives, she did not express any concern about the millions of women taking the riskier birth control pills – such as Yaz.  She showed no concern at all for the women who die taking birth control pills to regulate their periods (rather than to prevent pregnancy) or who could have had half the risk of dying if they had taken the older, safer forms of birth control pills.

 

Her most damning statement, in our opinion, was “The way this study was done was not perfect and the conclusion may or may not be correct.”  As any scientist knows, no study is perfect, and studies done on medical products already on the market are especially imperfect.  Why would a national network news program provide a doctor as an expert who disregards the importance of a new study with such a misleading and biased criticism?

 

Dr. Levy even added that blood clots can be treated with anticoagulant drugs, as if that made potentially deadly blood clots of little concern!  Being on anticoagulant drugs is a big deal.  Some women who were harmed by Yaz and these other birth control pills must continue taking anticoagulants for the rest of their lives.  After having a blood clot, some of these young women are advised to never become pregnant since their risk of another blood clot is heightened.  And as you know Annie, some women do not survive their first clot. 

 

How could any medical expert minimize the significance of blood clots and make light of such an important study?  Why was she encouraging complacency? Why are there no cries here in the US to take these unnecessarily dangerous contraceptives off the market?

 

In the first years after your death, we focused our attention on the contraceptive that killed you.  In the past few months, we have been in contact with some women (or their parents) who have been killed or seriously hurt by other contraceptives.  Two of those contraceptives are Essure (another Bayer product) and Nuvaring. Your Dad and I have decided to join forces with women and families who share our frustration and anger about deaths and injuries caused by these other products.

 

I am also thinking that we need to find some women’s rights groups who would join forces with us to stop unsafe FDA-approved birth control! It seems to me the increased risk of stroke for young women (a fact that has been publicized) is almost solely due to unsafe birth control!!!  American women cannot be lulled into complacency but must learn, expect and heed the signs of a stroke to save themselves. 

 

It is time—past time - for action. Get these dangerous pills and devices off the market—they are at least as dangerous as unsafe cars, bullets, fires, etc.!!!  I remember your passion about other unsafe medical products when you were alive Annie, and I so wish that you were here to join our effort! 

 

Love,

 

Mom

National Center for Health Research

1001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1100

Washington, DC 20036

(202) 223-4000

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