Pulmonary embolism, a blood clot that lodges in the arteries of the lungs, is a possible side effect of many hormonal contraceptives, including the Yaz and Yasmin birth control pills. Some studies have indicated that Yaz, Yasmin and other birth control pills made with the synthetic progestin, drospirenone, can increase the risks that a woman will develop life-threatening blood clots, including pulmonary embolism, by as much as 75%.
Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms
A pulmonary embolism usually occurs when a type of blood clot known as deep vein thrombosis dislodges from a vein in the leg and travels to the lungs. Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism can come on suddenly and often include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Coughing, which may produce bloody or blood-streaked sputum
- Recent swelling of an arm or leg
Pulmonary Embolism Complications
If it’s not treated quickly, a pulmonary embolism can be fatal. Other complications of a pulmonary embolism can include:
- Cardiac arrest
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Pulmonary infarction (death of part of the lung)
- Pleural effusion (a buildup of fluid between the outside lining of the lungs and the inner lining of the chest cavity)
- Paradoxical embolism
- Pulmonary hypertension
Pulmonary Embolism Treatment
Treatment of a pulmonary embolism will include the administration of an anticoagulant, such as warfarin or heparin, to prevent clots from growing larger and help prevent new ones from developing. In the most severe, life-threatening cases, thrombolytic medicines will be used to dissolve a blood clot quickly, though these drugs also increase the risk of severe bleeding. In cases of large clots, a surgical procedure called an embolectomy can be performed to remove the clot. Patients who cannot tolerate anticoagulants or those at risk for future blood clots may have a vena cava filter implanted in their large central vein, in order to prevent blood clots from reaching the lungs.
Yaz, Yasmin and Pulmonary Embolism
In April, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the labels for Yaz, Yasmin and other drospirenone birth control pills would be updated to provide stronger information regarding their blood clot risks, after some studies indicated that such contraceptives were associated with as high as a three-fold increase in the risk of serious blood clots, including pulmonary embolism. Thousands of women have sued the manufacturers of Yaz and Yasmin for injuries, including pulmonary embolism and other serious blood clots, allegedly caused by the birth control pills. Some 12,000 Yaz and Yasmin lawsuits are pending in state courts around the country, as well as in the federal Yaz and Yasmin multidistrict litigation underway in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois. Bayer AG recently revealed that it has already settled 1,900 Yaz and Yasmin lawsuits for $406.2 million. The company also said it planned to up its reserves for Yaz and Yasmin lawsuits, and will be setting aside an additional $610 million to take care of legal costs not covered by its insurance.