Yaz and Yasmin Birth Control: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

February 11, 2013

The birth control pill “Yaz” hit the market in 2006 and was quickly heralded as the “pill of choice” for women with severe PMS. Manufactured by Bayer – the international behemoth with 200+ related entities – Yaz and its stepsister Yasmin became Bayer’s top selling drugs, hitting almost $2 billion in worldwide sales by 2008.

In the U.S., our FDA became concerned with statements Bayer made in marketing both Yaz and Yasmin. In fact, the FDA never approved either drug for treating PMS. Instead, the FDA approved Yaz for PMDD – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, a disorder similar to PMS, but with additional symptoms such as depressed mood, anxiety and tension.

But as the pills’ popularity increased, so, too the reports of problems escalated: injuries and deaths from cardiac arrhythmias, cardiac arrests, blood clots in hearts and lungs, and strokes.

An estimated 10 million women in the U.S. have taken Yaz or Yasmin. Today, literally thousands of lawsuits involving women of childbearing age – alleging injury or death due to Yaz or Yasmin and Ocella, the generic version – have been filed in state and federal courts across the U.S. It’s not known how many thousands of other women may yet file claims.

The Good: Despite efforts by many well-funded special interests to blame our civil jury system for an array of America’s political and economic ills, the civil justice system has developed skill sets for claims when essentially “one product” causes literally thousands of injuries or deaths. The Yaz and Yasmin cases are one example.

The Multi-District Litigation of Yaz Claims: Multi-District Litigation (“MDL”) allows one federal court to exercise limited jurisdiction over thousands of Yaz lawsuits pending in state and federal courts. At this writing, 10,512 Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella cases are combined in the MDL pending before Chief Judge David R. Herndon in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

The good news is that through the MDL process, Bayer is now involved in settlement negotiations with a large number of Yaz and Yasmin victims. The cases presently in settlement negotiations involve pulmonary embolisms and deep vein thrombosis. (It is uncertain if – or when – Bayer might negotiate cases involving strokes, heart attacks, or other injuries.)

The Bad: For all its benefits, the Yaz MDL is a slow process. The original MDL consolidation of these cases began in 2009. For those injured, this type of litigation is expensive. And, despite the mounting evidence, Bayer has not admitted liability – even in cases Bayer paid to settle. Nor will the MDL process result in a Yaz or Yasmin recall. MDL is no substitute for the FDA. And although the FDA has not ordered a recall, the American civil justice system – our jury system – has prompted Bayer to recognize (though not publicly) that the mounting evidence – if presented to American juries – would expose Bayer to thousands of million dollar verdicts for injuries from Yaz and Yasmin.

The Ugly: For thirty years I have been optimistic in my view of the American Justice System. But continuing faith in our civil justice system requires honesty: there are some ugly parasites feeding on injury victims – and the Yaz cases are but one example.

You see it daily. We are deluged by local TV, satellites, cable, and the internet by advertisements inviting the uninformed, often vulnerable victims of mesothelioma, defective hip and knee appliances, drugs, and yes, Yaz and Yasmin to call an “800” number. Many of these ads run without a mention of their affiliated lawyers or law firms, while others display this information in barely legible fine print at the bottom of the screen.

The internet has compounded this problem. Anyone searching “Yaz” will be deceived by websites offering “Yaz Information,” “Yaz Recall” (Yaz has not been recalled), “Yaz Helplines,” or suggesting the site is some type of “national clearing house” for claims involving Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella.

In fact, so many of these sites are veiled deceptions hosted by attorneys trolling for Yaz victims. The promise of “information” is quickly replaced by links to law firms’ solicitations or offers to “chat” about your Yaz injuries. The same types of internet schemes are in place for other products or injuries involving knee replacements, vaginal mesh cases, IUDs, mesothelioma and a host of others.

CONCLUSION Our legal system is capable of change – but does so slowly. Satellite and cable TV and the internet move quickly. But in an era of “mass torts” where one product, medical device, or drug has caused injuries to thousands, TV and internet ads are no substitute for a free face-to-face meeting with an injury lawyer who will provide you a personal evaluation of your case.

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