Letter 34: Letter from Sasha

Dear Annie,

 

I can’t even begin to describe the emotions I felt while reading your story. Simply put, my heart breaks for you and your family, and I am furious that despite your story and the known deadly risks of a commonly prescribed hormonal birth control, the drug is still available, and women can die from simply trusting their doctor’s recommendation. 

 

You dedicated your life to loving your family, becoming the best possible version of yourself, and advocating for others. You should not have had to beg for healthcare professionals to view your symptoms and concerns as real problems, and you should have gotten better advice. You had your whole life ahead of you, and it was unfairly taken from you. You deserve justice. 

 

When I was fifteen years old, I had horrible acne and suffered from excruciatingly painful periods. I begged my pediatrician to help me, and when she immediately suggested hormonal birth control, I didn’t even bother to ask about the potential risks. I saw birth control as a light at the end of a dark tunnel of days wearing hoods to cover my acne and laying in bed buckled over in pain from my period. 

 

I took my combined estrogen and progesterone pill daily for four years. My acne improved, my period cramps diminished, but I began to wake up every morning with horrible nausea and migraines. It got to the point where I would skip my first hour of school every morning, anxiously waiting for my migraine medication to subside the pain. I saw countless doctors, but not one suggested that my birth control could be causing the problems. 

 

In December of 2019, I went on a three-week vacation to Israel and forgot to pack my birth control pills. After consulting my mother and my OBGYN, I decided to take a break from the pills. Almost miraculously, my migraines stopped at the same time. The culprit to my months of confusion and agony was a pill that I viewed as routine as brushing my teeth every morning. 

 

After reading your story, I am horrified at the thought that my birth control story could have been so much worse. What happened to you Annie, could have happened to any woman. 

 

Immediately after reading your mother’s first letter, I looked at the list of FDA-approved oral contraceptives containing drospirenone. Why isn’t this common knowledge? Why aren’t these risks told to the millions of girls who trust their doctors to provide them with the very best medical care? This is horrifying, Annie, and it breaks my heart to know that it took you losing your life for others to be made aware of these risks. 

 

As I prepare for a career in medicine, I will always remember you and your family. Your legacy will live on, Annie, and I promise to advocate for safe birth control options, and make sure that pharmaceutical companies and physicians are held accountable for their actions. Your family’s dedication to holding the FDA accountable and pushing for the removal of drospirenone-containing birth control, is going to save lives.

On behalf of myself, my mother, my sister, and every woman out there, I thank your family for their continued fight and dedication to telling your story. I will never forget you. 

 

Sincerely,


Sasha

University of Miami

National Center for Health Research

1001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1100

Washington, DC 20036

(202) 223-4000

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