More than 1,000 women have filed lawsuits in federal district court in Missouri against Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the NuvaRing birth control device. The suits allege that NuvaRing caused blood clots, in some cases, fatal ones, and the company did not adequately warn of the contraceptive’s risks.
The NuvaRing lawsuits are part of a wave of litigation involving blood-clot risks for a variety of hormonal contraceptives that have come onto the market in the past decade, Yahoo News reports. Thousands of women sued over the Ortho Evra patch, citing studies that showed a higher blood clot risk compared to traditional birth control pills. More than 10,000 suits had been filed against Bayer, the maker of Yaz and Yasmin birth control pills. The NuvaRing is not a pill or patch, but a device that is inserted into the vagina and removed each month. It prevents pregnancy by releasing hormones into the bloodstream.
All of these recently marketed hormonal contraceptives contain newer forms of progestin—third- and fourth-generation progestins developed in the 1990s and 2000s. Recent studies have shown a 1.4 to 4 times higher risk of developing blood clots for women using contraceptives with the newer progestins than women who use contraceptives containing second-generation progestin, Yahoo News said.
Plaintiffs in the NuvaRing cases say Merck did not adequately test or label the device to warn of the risks. Merck disputes this claim, and said that it followed U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for labeling
Experts disagree over the study results, and some fear that women are being scared away from effective forms of birth control. A group of international researchers, in an open letter in the Journal of Family Health and Reproductive Planning, said that additional studies are needed to determine the blood-clot risk of the third- and fourth-generation hormonal contraceptives.