“Oh! It’s easy to use,” stated a TV commercial for NuvaRing, one of the most popular birth control goods on the market. It may be easy to use, but for some women, that convenience came with a tragically hefty price.
NuvaRing is a flexible ring inserted vaginally that continuously releases a combination of hormones: estrogen and a third-generation progestin, or synthetic hormone, to prevent pregnancy. It remains in place for three weeks, and as such, allows women to forego the burden of remembering to take daily birth control. Obviously that makes NuvaRing a very appealing option for many women. NuvaRing is currently manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Merck and is sold in over 50 countries. More than 44 million prescriptions have been filled in the United States alone, according to Merck.
The problem with NuvaRing is its risk for potentially life-threatening blood clots. While multiple studies have shown that the third-generation progestins referenced above are generally safe, they are about twice as likely as older birth control pills to cause blood clots. And among the various combination hormonal birth control types that contain progestin – the birth control pill, patch, and ring – NuvaRing seems to be at the higher end of the scale, risk-wise. Indeed, while studies indicate that the risk of developing serious blood clots for all women using these three types of birth control ranges between 3 and 12 women per 10,000, two studies conducted in 2011 and 2012 indicate the risk of developing a serious blood clot among NuvaRing users alone is 11.4 and 8.3 per 10,000 women in a year, respectively. (NuvaRing’s label was updated in 2013 by the FDA to include information from these studies.)
No families know this danger better than the families of women Erika Langhart and Megan Henry. Erika Langhart was a healthy, active 24-year-old who was considering attending law school. She also happened to use NuvaRing as her birth control. One day, Erika died suddenly after a blood clot started in her right thigh and traveled to her lungs, causing massive pulmonary embolisms and cardiac arrest. Erika’s doctors cited NuvaRing as a risk factor for those multiple pulmonary embolisms.
Megan Henry luckily survived her experience with NuvaRing, but it left her in a much different state than before she started using it. Megan was training to compete in the 2012 Olympics in downhill sledding when she began experiencing shortness of breath and, then, started collapsing during training. A pulmonologist finally diagnosed her as having blood clots on her lungs and, as a result, multiple pulmonary embolisms. She was rushed to the hospital where doctors were able to save her life. Her hospital discharge papers cited NuvaRing as “probably” a risk factor for said pulmonary embolisms. While she was lucky enough to survive, she morphed from an Olympic hopeful to having to use a breathing machine and blood thinners.
Both of these families, along with about 3800 others, sued Merck. According to the lawsuit, they allege the original manufacturer of NuvaRing, Oregon, failed to adequately warn women of the “heightened risk of blood clots…even though the manufacturer was aware that NuvaRing posed greater risks than other hormonal contraceptives.” Merck did not admit wrongdoing but did agree to pay $100 million in damages to these families. The Langhart’s, however, did not settle.
Here at Brooks Law Group, we aim to help individuals and families who are victims of defective medical devices recover the compensation to which they may be entitled and hold these companies accountable. If you or a loved one has experienced an adverse event as a result of any product or drug, call Brooks Law Group today.
Sources: CNN, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, FDA, NuvaRing