U.K. studies show a brand of birth control pill may be linked with “deep vein thrombosis”
A health warning issued by the British Government revealed the results of studies that link seven popular brands of low dose contraceptive pills with deep vein thrombosis. This instigated an uproar within the medical profession and provoked confusion and outrage amongst the British population.
The Government warned that of the 3 million British women taking oral contraceptives, the 1.5 million, using those seven brands of the pill, are at twice the risk of contracting thrombosis than users of other brands.
The brands in question are Fermodene, Femodene ED, Minulet, Triadent, TriMinulet, Marvelon and Mercilon. These pills introducted in the 80’s, boasted protecvtion from ovaian cancer and pelvic infections. It was also believed that the new pill reduced the risk of artrial blood clots. Recent evidence seems to support claims that the risk of thrombosis is greatly amplified with those pills containing the hormones gestodene and desogestrel.
The manufacturers of the seven pills, Schering, Organon and Wyethg Laboratories, refused to acknowledge the results of the studies, and denied assertions that the drugs were more dangerous than the older generation pills. Schering, on of the three laboratories, has persisted in maintaining that their pill is safe and would accept no responsibility for any deaths that might have occurred among users of their brands of contraceptive pills. Consequently 180 women and their families have commenced legal proceeding against them.
Many of the fatalities were young women who were not smokers, drinkers or overweight, criteria which would have placed them in a high risk group. Their families expressed their disgust that the possible lethal effect of the pill was omitted from the coroner’s report.
The Government caution was based on findings of three papers, who results, as yet, remain unpublished. These papers are: a World Health Organization Enquiry, a report based on data from British G.P’s and a five country European study conducted by Canadian professor, Walter Spitzer.
Professor Spitzer, head of Epidemiology and Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, was flown in by Schering to put the record straight on the controversy. He maintained that the announcement had been “ambiguous, contradictory and confusing” and accused the British Government of “jumping the gun.”
However, Professor Michael Rawlins, Chairmn of the Government’s Committee on the Safety of Medicines, held that all three studies had consistently demonstrated the pills’ danger to women. Reponding to allegations that the findings were preliminary, he replied, “We have been informed by the investigators that the analyses presented to us are final.”
Despite this alarming discovery, the contraceptives will not be removed from the market.
There was some concern that the announcement would lead to thousands of women immediately discontinuing their pill. However, women were advised to complet their current cycles, and than seek advice. G.P’s and Family Planning Clinics were only notified 16 hours prior to the warning. Enraged, they issued a number of formal complaints protesting that proper notification would have at least allowed them to better handle the concerns of those women who would be affected by the announcement.
The first official publication in Britain demonstrating the relationship between an increased isk of thromo-embolic clotting and the pill, was produced in 1968 by the Dunlop Committee on the Safety of Drugs. This new evidence only substantiates what the medical profession has known for almost three decades.
The public distress on the discovery of the potentially fatal effects of the pill should be secondary to the fact that women on the pill have been dying from thrombosis for the past 27 ears. Still, the medical profession has persisted in distributing the pill to younger and increasing numbers of women.