Injuries from defective drugs don’t just take place in the United States. As a pharmaceutical liability attorney, I handle claims from across the U.S.—but most of these highly profitable “blockbuster” medications are sold across the world. Next door in Canada, a lawsuit by a class of Canadian women has been approved as a class action, according to GlobalNews.ca. The women allege that Bayer, the manufacturer of Yasmin and Yaz, intentionally did not disclose the increased risk of blood clots, stroke and heart attack from taking the pills, as well as increased risks of gallbladder disease and other medical problems. All of the class members are represented by a London, Ontario law firm, which says it has heard from 2,000 women. The merits of the case are yet to be heard.
The problems with Yaz and Yasmin are known in the United States, where the Food and Drug Administration ordered a warning added to their labels last year that they increased the risk of blood clots. In fact, the drugs increase the risk of a blood clot over older kinds of birth control pills, which in turn have a slight risk over taking no pill at all. The active ingredient in Yaz and Yasmin, drospirenone, is a newer synthetic progestin—the active ingredient in hormonal birth control pills. The FDA’s label change notes that some studies have shown as much as three times the risk for Yaz and Yasmin patients. As a result, Bayer has been sued by thousands of American women who claim they suffered life-threatening blood clots, strokes or heart attacks, and families who lost young women. Thousands of other lawsuits allege that Yasmin and Yaz triggered patients’ gallbladder problems.
One patient described in the Canadian article was Carrie Gibson, age 25, who began feeling a cramp in her leg last August. The next day, while grocery shopping, she began to feel the symptoms of what she thought was a panic attack—short breathing, sweating and vomiting. It turned out that Gibson was having a pulmonary embolism, a life-threatening medical condition in which a blood clot blocks blood flow to the heart. In fact, testing showed that Gibson had blood clots in multiple places on her lungs. As a result, she now takes blood thinners and gets tested once a week; at 25, she suffers from fatigue and irregular breath. Doctors attributed these health problems to her use of Yaz over the preceding four years. An attorney in the Canadian class action told Global News that trying it as a class action allows many people to pursue compensation when they would otherwise be unable to afford an attorney.
I am pleased to see that Canadians who have suffered life-threatening medical complications from taking Yaz and Yasmin will be able to go to court. As a dangerous drug lawyer, I know how serious blood clots can be. Several lawsuits against Bayer in the United States were filed by families of young women who died of blood clot-related problems, despite otherwise being healthy. Blood clots that travel to the lungs, as Gibson’s did, can be fatal quickly and are considered medical emergencies. As a result, victims may need to take blood thinners and be monitored for the rest of their lives. As a defective drug attorney, I think that’s too high a price to pay for birth control pills—especially when a safer (but less profitable) alternative exists.
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