Health Concerns Over Popular Contraceptives
By NATASHA SINGER Published: September 25, 2009
The oral contraceptives Yaz and Yasmin are the top-selling pharmaceutical line for Bayer HealthCare largely as a result of marketing that presents them as much more than mere pregnancy prevention.
Yaz, in particular, the top-selling birth control pill in the United States, owes much of its popularity to multimillion-dollar ad campaigns that have promoted the drug as a quality-of-life treatment to combat acne and severe premenstrual depression.
Yaz, a newer sister drug to Yasmin, contains less estrogen. The franchise had worldwide sales of about $1.8 billion last year, based on Bayer’s successful positioning of Yasmin and Yaz as the go-to drug brands for women under 35.
But recently, the Yaz line’s image has been clouded by concerns from some researchers, health advocates and plaintiffs’ lawyers. They say that the drugs put women at higher risk for blood clots, strokes and other health problems than some other birth control pills do.
Those critics, though, are up against a large European health study, sponsored by Bayer, the German pharmaceutical giant, that reported the opposite conclusion. The Bayer-financed study said that cardiovascular risks in women taking Bayer products were comparable to those taking an older formula of birth control pills.
But regulators are finding other faults with the Yaz franchise. The Food and Drug Administration early this year asked Bayer to correct misleading television commercials. Last month, the agency cited the company for not following proper quality control procedures at a plant that makes hormone ingredients.