Yaz Blamed for Gallbladder Problems

Yaz, a popular birth control pill, has been associated with various dangerous side effects, including blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. But there is one possible Yaz side effect that is not as well known: Gallbladder disease. It seems that Yaz and similar birth control pills may increase the chances that a young women will develop gallstones, gallbladder disease, and ultimately need to undergo surgical removal of the gallbladder.

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped sac located below the liver in the right upper abdomen. Bile is made in the liver, and then stored in the gallbladder until the body needs it. The gallbladder contracts and pushes the bile into a tube—called the common bile duct—that carries it to the small intestine, where it helps with digestion. Gallstones form when bile stored in the gallbladder hardens into pieces of stone-like material. As gallstones move into the bile ducts and create blockage, pressure increases in the gallbladder. When this happens, a victim will experience a gallbladder “attack.”

Women are already twice as likely to develop gallbladder disease as men because of its relationship to increased estrogen levels. Gallstones are commonly attributed to high cholesterol levels. Yaz and other similar prescription birth control pills increase the level of estrogen in the body, which causes a boost to the cholesterol level.

Removing the gallbladder is really the only way to deal with this painful problem. Gallbladder surgery patients usually follow a careful diet that includes avoiding foods that are hard on the biliary system and harmful fats. Long-term side effects of gallbladder surgery can include bloating, gas, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea. A handful of patients also develop a condition called postcholecystectomy syndrome.

Scores of women from around the country have filed lawsuits over Yaz side effects, including gallbladder disease. Plaintiffs allege that Yaz was not subjected to adequate testing, and that Bayer failed to provide adequate warnings about its potential side effects.

On October 1, 2009, all lawsuits involving Yaz, as well as its precursor, Yasmin, currently 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 Judge David R. Herndon (MDL No. 2100). In December, Judge Herndon discussed scheduling a series of “bellwether” trials for the lawsuits, which will serve as a guideline for other cases.

Some legal experts believe that as many as 25,000 lawsuits involving Yaz and similar medications could ultimately be filed in the multidistrict litigation. It could take more than two years to resolve all of the Yaz lawsuits on Judge Herndon’s docket.

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