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Birth Control: Consumer Group Calls for Controversial Ortho Evra to be Banned

The Ortho-Evra patch was introduced in 2001 in a blaze of advertising hyping the benefits of the patch over the pill. The patch contains hormones similar to those in the contraceptive pill, except that they are absorbed through the skin. Patches are worn in a four-week cycle. A patch is worn for a week at a time, then replaced, for three weeks. After a patch-free week, the cycle starts again.

It’s supposed to be more convenient, easier to use, and deliver a more consistent dose of hormones than the pill. Campaign group Public Citizen says that the patch also puts women at more risk of blood clots and a range of other side effects, than using the pill.

Public Citizen are calling the FDA to remove the Ortho-Evra patch from the market. The FDA have changed the labeling of the patch several times to add warnings. The label changes came after studies showing that women using the patch are up to two times as likely to suffer from blood clots than those using the pill.

Several law suits have been filed by women and families of women who say they have suffered blood clots – oftentimes fatal – caused by the Ortho-Evra patch. Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical company who manufacture Ortho-Evra, have been settling several cases out of court before they went to trial, presumably to avoid adverse publicity in the face of growing concerns over the patch. One tragic case involved a 14-year-old Wisconsin girl who had only been using the patch for six weeks before suffering fatal blood clots in her lungs. Johnson & Johnson settled out of court with the girl’s family for $1.25 million.

Studies have also shown Ortho-Evra users are more likely to suffer side effects like breast discomfort, painful periods, nausea and vomiting, and reactions at the patch site, compared to those who used the pill.

Johnson & Johnson say that Ortho-Evra users find it easier to use the patch, and use it more reliably than the pill, so it is a more effective contraception method than the pill. They also say that the risk to individual patch users is very small – around 3-5 women in 10,000 will suffer a blood clot, compared to 1 in 10000 in women who don’t use hormone-based contraceptives.

Public Citizen say the extra risk is simply unacceptable, and Ortho-Evra should be withdrawn within the next six months. Do you agree? You can sign their petition to the FDA at NotMyPatch.org.

Have you used Ortho-Evra? Did you suffer any side effects? Should it be banned? Or do you enjoy the benefits and think they outweigh the risks?


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