Letter 19: From Claudia
When I was 16, I was prescribed a birth control pill to treat hormonal acne. It was a
generic version of Yaz, the same birth control that killed you. When my doctor
prescribed me Yaz, she said that it had a higher risk of blood clots compared to
other birth control pills. However, she said because I was young, a high school
athlete, and not a smoker, that my risk of getting a blood clot was extremely low.
As a 16 year old teenager, in my mind, the risk of blood clots were worth getting rid
of acne and having clear skin. Little did I know, there were several other birth control
pills available without the hormone drosperinone that also were shown to be
effective at reducing hormonal acne.
I stayed on Yaz for the next 6 years, not realizing that I had other options. I remember seeing commercials on TV warning women about the dangers of Yaz, Yasmin, and other pills that contained the hormone drospirenone. I remember the ads soliciting women who had been harmed by those pills to come forward for class action lawsuits. But again, as a young healthy adult, I thought that those risks didn't apply to me. Annie, you were young, healthy, and a non-smoker too. So why did Yaz kill you?
When I moved to a new city after college, my new primary care doctor was the first doctor I'd seen in 6 years to bring up the risks of Yaz and wonder whether the benefits outweighed the risks in my case. She told me that Yaz had a significantly higher risk of blood clots and that there were several other birth control pill options that we could explore that would work just as well for me. As patients, we trust our doctors to present us the best options for medical treatment. But the truth is, that many doctors don't have the time to stay up to date on all the current research. Like patients, doctors trust the FDA to regulate medical products, and they too often assume that the FDA has done their due diligence to make sure all products on the market are safe.
It is disappointing that the FDA has still not taken drospirenone-contining birth control pills off the market, despite research showing women are 3 times more likely to suffer a blood clot. As someone invested in reproductive rights, I believe women should have a full spectrum of safe and effective birth control methods to choose from. However, drospirenone-containing birth control pills are not safe, and they do not provide any benefit that other birth control pills on the market lack.
Annie, your death was a tragedy, but I am grateful to have heard your story and I hope it will continue to inform other women of the risks of the birth control pills containing the hormone drospirenone.