The Potentially Fatal Side Effects of Yaz
Yaz and its sister drug, Yasmin, entered the oral contraceptive market with a bang in 2006. Bayer, the birth control pills’ manufacturer, campaigned heavily with television ads proclaiming Yaz/Yasmin’s ability to relieve symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle such as irritability, moodiness, bloating, fatigue and headaches, etc. The ads also failed to communicate the serious risks of Yaz and Yasmin (see below). These ads later came under fire from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Bayer was asked to pull it from the air in February 2009. This reprimand from the FDA was an excellent move on behalf of the public’s safety, but the ads had already done extensive damage by spreading incorrect and exaggerated information about Yaz and Yasmin, as well as minimizing the serious risks of Yaz. The popularity of Yaz/Yasmin soared, and, within two years of approval, Yaz had cornered 18% of the entire oral contraceptives market.
What is Yaz/Yasmin?
Yaz and Yasmin are popular oral contraceptives manufactured by Bayer. They are FDA approved to prevent pregnancy while treating Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and moderate acne in women. They work to prevent pregnancy by utilizing the hormones estrogen and progestin (drospirenone) to prevent ovulation and make the body less able to host a pregnancy. Yaz and Yasmin are essentially the same drug, they only differ in the number of pills per monthly dosage. Yaz users take 24 active pills, three more than Yasmin users; thus, the periods of Yaz patients should be three days shorter. Yaz and Yasmin have generic versions called Gianvi and Ocella.
The immediate and substantial success of Yaz and Yasmin was unfortunate due to the serious and potentially fatal risks of the drug, which are discussed further below. Thousands of women were injured by the adverse side effects of Yaz.
Yaz Side Effects
Yaz and Yasmin users may experience the regular side effects commonly associated with oral contraceptives. The serious side effects of Yaz are of great concern for their dangerous, and sometimes fatal, results for patients.
- Regular side effects
- Nausea and vomiting
- Breast pain or tenderness
- Weight gain/increased appetite
- Breakthrough bleeding during menstrual periods
- Vaginal discharge
- Decreased sex drive
Serious Side Effects
A 2009 study published in Contraception explains how Yaz may increase the risk of pulmonary embolism and other cardiovascular injuries, because pills with the chemical combination of drospirenone (progestin) and ethinylestradiol (estrogen) cause an increase in lipid peroxidation. This leads to high levels of serum copper, a situation that increases the risk of cardiovascular injury, such as
A study conducted in the Netherlands indicates that the risk of blood clots is doubled for Yaz users, as opposed to other oral contraceptives.
Blood Clot Symptoms: Symptoms of a venous clot, most often occurring in the legs and arms, include swelling, warmth, redness and pain. These types of clots do not allow blood to return to the heart. Arterial clots do not allow blood to get to an affected area, causing body tissue to die. The symptoms of arterial clots are pain, weakness whiteness of skin, or loss of sensation to the area, as well as loss of function, depending on the location of the clot. When the clot is in the heart or brain, it results in a heart attack or a stroke.
Some evidence indicates that women with migraines might be at an even higher risk for Yaz/Yasmin-related strokes.
A pulmonary embolism occurs when one of the lungs’ arteries becomes blocked, most often by a blood clot that has traveled from another part of the body such as the legs. The British Medical Journal reports that women who use Yaz are six times more likely to suffer from venous thrombosis (deep vein thrombosis) than women who do not use oral contraceptives.
Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms: Sudden and unexplained chest pain, shortness of breath, a cough that produces bloody sputum
Deep vein thrombosis
Hyperkalemia means higher than normal levels of potassium in the blood. Experts think this is caused by the progestin drospirenone. This condition can lead to heart problems and other issues.
Symptoms of Hyperkalemia: People with hyperkalemia may not experience symptoms. Some have reported vague symptoms including nausea, fatigue, muscle weakness or tingling sensations.
Hyperthyroidism is an overproduction of the thyroid hormones, which regulate our metabolism. These hormones have a direct effect on many organs, including the heart
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism: Palpitations, heat intolerance, nervousness, insomnia, breathlessness, increased bowel movements, light or absent menstrual periods, fatigue, fast heart rate, trembling hands, weight loss, muscle weakness, warm moist skin, hair loss or staring gaze.
Users of Yaz are shown to have higher instances of gallbladder disease. Instances of gallbladder disease, and the subsequent removal of the gallbladder, are quite common in the lawsuits currently filed against Bayer.
Gallbladder Disease Symptoms: Symptoms associated with gallbladder issues include pain or tenderness under the rib cage on the right side, pain between shoulder blades, stools light or chalky colored, indigestion after eating, nausea, dizziness, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, headache over eyes, especially right, and bitter fluid that comes up after eating.
High blood pressure
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure: Hypertension (high blood pressure) has been labeled “the silent killer,” because people typically don’t know they have it until their blood pressure is measured.
Both benign and cancerous liver tumors have been associated with Yaz usage.
Liver Tumor Symptoms: There are often no symptoms associated with benign tumors.
Breast and cervical cancer
There is some evidence linking oral contraceptives to breast or cervical cancer, but due to many conflicting studies, no conclusive results have been determined. The same is true for pancreatitis.
Symptoms of Breast and Cervical Cancer: Patients may or may not experience symptoms of breast or cervical cancer. It is important to do self-checks for lumps in the breast and set an annual appointment for a PAP smear and screening to check for cervical and breast cancer. In May 2007, the FDA required Yaz and Yasmin to carry black box warning advising against the use of Yaz/Yasmin for women who are over 35 and who smoke, especially more than 15 cigarettes a day. The warning states that the Yaz/Yasmin’s cardiovascular problems are contraindicated in smokers over 35, meaning women with both of those factors are at highest risk for serious Yaz/Yasmin side effects.
Women who experience any of the above symptoms or a feeling of illness after taking Yaz should contact their doctors immediately. Many Yaz issues arise within the first month of taking the contraceptive but some are known to develop later as well. Those currently taking Yaz and interested in discontinuing use, should speak to a healthcare professional about utilizing another form of birth control. Information on choosing a different method of birth control can be found here.
If you think you or a loved one has suffered from one of the serious side effects of Yaz, you might be able to seek compensation. Countless women have told with their stories about Yaz injuries, so that other women might be saved from similar fates. Women all over the world are standing up to Bayer and showing the drug company that it cannot endanger and injure women and get away with it. As of February 1, 2011, Bayer had been served with 6,850 complaints regarding Yaz, Yasmin and their generic equivilants, Gianvi and Ocella. Some experts believe the number of lawsuits filed may eventually exceed 25,000. It is bittersweet to see brave women fighting against a powerful drug company for pain and suffering that should have never occurred.
Below are some great online support groups for women who have taken Yaz and Yasmin including ours from BirthControlNews.org:
- Yaz Birth Control Forum