Women around the country claim that the popular oral contraceptives, Yaz and Yasmin, caused them to suffer strokes, pulmonary emboli, deep vein thrombosis, blood clots, gallbladder disease, and other serious injuries. More than 100 lawsuits have already been filed by and on behalf of women injured by Yaz and Yasmin, and legal experts expect that many more will be filed in the coming months.
Yaz is the top-selling oral contraceptive in the U.S. Last year, Yaz and Yasmin generated about $1.8 billion for Bayer Corporation. Yaz and Yasmin lawsuits allege that these sales were achieved through a marketing campaign that presented the medications as more than mere birth control pills, and touted them as treatments for premenstrual dysphoric disorder, premenstrual syndrome and moderate acne. Bayer Corporation and the other defendants named in the complaints have been warned at least three times by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) over misleading television advertisements which overstate the efficiency of Yaz or Yasmin and minimize serious risks associated with the drugs.
Yaz and Yasmin are both made with a type of progestin called drospirenone, making them different from many other oral contraceptives. Drospirenone can elevate the body’s potassium levels, which can lead to a condition called hyperkalemia in certain patients. Hyperkalemia may result in potentially serious heart and health problems. Adverse Events reported to the FDA involving Yaz and Yasmin include heart arrhythmias, electrolyte imbalance, hyponatremis, hyperkalemia, hyperkalemic arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, tachycardia, bradycardia, myocardial infarction, stroke, transient ischemic attack, blood clots, embolisms, and sudden death.
Bayer insists that both Yaz and Yasmin are safe. According to a recent New York Times report, the drug maker cites a large European study that it paid for that reported that there was no difference in the risk of cardiovascular problems or death in women taking drospirenone contraceptives compared to women who took pills that contained a progestin called levonorgestrel.
But not all studies on the subject have been as reassuring. For example, a Dutch study recently published in the British Medical Journal found a 6.3-fold increase in venous thrombosis – a life-threatening type of blood clot – in women taking drospirenone contraceptives compared with women not taking any type of pill. Contraceptive pills containing levonorgestrel, however, increased the risk of clots by only 3.6-fold. According to The New York Times, Dr. Frits R. Rosendaal, one of the authors of the Dutch study, said the risk was “worth acting on” and advocates that women switch to a pill that contains levonorgestrel.
On October 1, 2009, all Yaz and Yasmin lawsuits pending in federal court were consolidated for centralized and coordinated pre-trial proceedings in the Yasmin and Yaz (Drospirenone) Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois before the Honorable Judge David Herndon (MDL No. 2100).
An MDL allows all cases to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses and the court. When lawsuits are consolidated as an MDL each retains its own identity. If the MDL process does not resolve the cases, they are transferred back to the court where they originated for trial.