Birth Control Patch Causing More Harm Than Good

Tiffany Mitchell a usually happy, popular, outgoing student, found life almost unbearable as her junior year at Howard University approached. This overwhelming sense of depression and uncertainty came over her almost over night, yet the reason was unknown to her until she did some research on her current birth control method, the Ortho Evra birth control patch, and discovered its severe side effects.

“I was extremely upset to hear that the birth control that I had been using for almost a year was the cause of the emotional rollercoaster I was on -approximately the past 6 months.” Mitchell, currently off the patch suffered from deep depression, and constant thoughts of suicide.

“I didn’t know why I was feeling this way. My life was going so well, yet when a very close friend of mine came to me to tell me of similar thoughts we put two and two together to realize it was the patch.”

Tiffany was one of the lucky ones, latest research indicates that women have a higher risk of injury as a result of this new birth control method. About a dozen women, most in their late teens and early 20s, died last year from blood clots believed to be related to the patch. Dozens more survived strokes and other clot-related problems, according to federal drug safety reports obtained by The Associated Press.

New warnings state that women using this patch are exposed to 60 percent more estrogen than women who use a typical 35-microgram birth control pill.

Time magazine, called the birth control method one of the best inventions of 2002. The article said "this year’s newest entry, OrthoEvra, is not perfect, but it’s close-the patch delivers the same estrogen and progestin found in a standard birth-control pill."

More than 4 million women have used the patch since it went on sale in 2002. Several lawsuits have been filed by families of women who died or suffered blood clots while using the patch, and lawyers representing the unhappy consumers said more are planned.

Last month, Dr. Miguel Cano, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Reedley, Calif, sent a note to several thousand women patients recommending that they stop using the patch and that they come in for appointments to get a new form of birth control.

Reports obtained by the Associated Press (AP) appear to indicate that in 2004 – when 800,000 women were on the patch – the risk of dying or surviving a blood clot while using the device was about three times higher than while using birth control pills.

According to AP, Dr. Philip Darney, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, and a leading contraceptive researcher, cautioned that the FDA’s adverse event reports tend to be inflated for newer products like the patch.

Patients and doctors are more likely to contact the FDA when they have a bad reaction to a new drug as oppose to an older drug, he said. In addition, women using the patch are likely to either be new to hormonal birth control or have reacted poorly to the pill and are looking for a change. The result is that the pool of women using the patch are at higher risk than birth control users at large.