NuvaRing is being linked to a series of thrombotic issues leading to serious health problems and litigation. The birth contol device can allegedly cause blood clots, some of which can be fatal. Manufacturers such as Merck & Co. are being accused in lawsuits of over-stating the benefits of the medication while providing inadequate warnings.
U.S. manufacturers began promoting NuvaRing in 2002. The contraceptive consists of two types of hormones, ethinyl estradiol and etonogestrel. These hormones are released through a flexible ring, which is placed inside the vagina and left there for 3 weeks. This is followed by a one-week period where the ring is removed.
The potential problem with NuvaRing stems from the fact that it delivers a constant, uncontrolled stream of hormones into the body. As a result, NuvaRing users can end up with higher concentrations of estrogen than with previous birth control pills. Excessive levels of estrogen can increase the probability of a blood clot, which may manifest itself in multiple ways including deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism, and arterial thrombosis leading to heart attack and stroke. DVT occurs when a blood clot originates in a deep vein of the body, typically the legs, while a pulmonary embolism involves a partial or entire entity of a blood clot lodging itself into blood vessels of the lungs. According to a study published by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011, these risks are 56% more likely to occur in NuvaRing users in comparison to those who use traditional birth control pills.
Now, current and former NuvaRing manufacturers, particularly Merck & Co., are facing lawsuits over the alleged side effects. Previous manufacturers include Organon BioSciences NV and parent company Akzo Nobel NV, which were bought by Schering-Plough in 2007; Schering Plough then merged with Merck in 2009. In general, the litigation asserts that manufacturers off-handedly marketed the medication’s benefits while omitting information about the increased risk of blood clots. The current NuvaRing warning is somewhat evasive about the issue. “The risk of getting blood clots may be greater with the type of progestin in NuvaRing than with some other progestins in certain low-dose birth control pills. It is unknown if the risk of blood clots is different with NuvaRing use than with the use of certain birth control pills.” states their website.
In response to the mounting number of lawsuits, all NuvaRing cases have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) set to take place before Judge Rodney W. Sippel in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. This was done in an effort to increase the efficiency of court proceedings.
NuvaRing is not the only new form of birth control to cause controversy. Bayer’s Yaz and Yasmin pills and Johnson & Johnson’s Orthro Evra contraceptive patch have also been under fire for similar reasons. Based on these allegations, it appears that NuvaRing and other recent forms of birth control present a greater risk than previous forms of contraceptives which are said to be just as effective.