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Beyaz and Yasmin/Yaz: All in the Family

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Washington, DCVarious pundits are left to wonder why the plethora of Beyaz side effects have led to little if any legal activity with regard to Beyaz side effects. Is it because Beyaz is so dramatically similar in chemical formulation to Yasmin and Yaz? The aforementioned chemical cousins of Beyaz are manufactured by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals (Bayer). All three are based on the synthetic hormone drospirenone, as well as estrogen. But there are thousands of lawsuits individually for Yasmin and Yaz, and some drospirenone lawsuits appear to now include Beyaz birth control as an automatic addendum.

So close are they, in the way they are chemically built.

Beyaz, in fact, has been popularly characterized as Yaz in a different wrapper. The name “Beyaz,” in fact, is thought to have been derived from the original marketing pitch for Yaz and Yasmin as “beyond birth control.” Thus, Beyaz is “beyond Yaz.”

Beyaz drospirenone is, in fact, a clone of Yaz with the addition of folate, the B vitamin that is widely held in medical circles as helping to reduce neural tube defects in newborns. Marketing trends that reflect a massive move to the concept of added value in birth control pills promoted to young women, still begs the question as to why a manufacturer would add folate to a birth control pill. In sum, you are helping to protect the health and development of a newborn that the contraceptive - which is 99 percent effective - is designed to prevent.

It’s a classic Catch-22. But pundits also suggest that Bayer, stung by criticism over the initial marketing of Yaz and Yasmin and the lawsuits over alleged adverse reactions that have followed, was looking to save some face in the eyes of its primary birth control clientele. Thus, Beyaz was born - “beyond Yaz,” for that day down the road that you might accidentally or intend to become pregnant. The folate in Beyaz will help protect your child from the possibility of a potential birth defect.

What’s more, Beyaz was duly approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in spite of growing concern over the potential of drospirenone to deliver a higher incidence of Beyaz blood clots and other adverse reactions than previous generations of The Pill.

Newer, is not necessarily better, according to a leading expert on clotting disorders at Leiden University in Holland. “The safest [pill] is still, surprisingly, one of the oldest pills,” Dr. Frits Rosendaal told National Public Radio (NPR, 8/23/2010).

“Personally, I would not start using a new drug unless it’s proven to be better,” Rosendaal continued, in comments to NPR. “Because we know that all drugs have side effects, and we also know that for newer ones which have not yet been used by millions of people, the side effects are generally unknown.”

At 16, her world changed…

To Katie Anderson, Yaz seemed like something that was new and super-cool. “I do remember going to the gynecologist and asking for Yaz because I had seen the commercials,” said Anderson, 16 at the time, in comments to NPR about three years later. “That was the one I wanted.”

Anderson was impressed by what she saw in the advertisements. And what intrigued her was a birth control pill that could help regulate her menstrual cycles, treat PMS and help with her acne.

“What girl would not fall for something that says, you know, it’s going to help with moderate or mild acne?” she said, thinking back to the time just before starting Yaz. “That’s great! That’s just a perk, that’s a plus.”

Two things: first, let’s remember that Yaz and Beyaz birth control are essentially one and the same; except for the fact Yaz doesn’t have folate. But everything else is similar. Secondly, Professor Ruth Day of Duke University noted that the now-infamous balloon ads Bayer used to initially market Yaz and Yasmin fostered misleading concepts and conclusions in the minds of the intended market - young women looking for added value.

The vast majority of the young women Day screened the ad for - 97 percent - thought drospirenone could treat PMS. “It does not,” Day told NPR. Yaz was, in fact, approved by the FDA only to treat premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, a more serious and far less common condition than PMS.

Day’s subjects - a representative cross-section of the intended clientele for Yaz, Yasmin and later Beyaz drospirenone - also thought that Yaz could combat mild acne. That’s what 64 percent of them got from the TV ad, anyway.

But not exactly. The product monograph for Yaz specifies treatment of moderate acne vulgaris - something a bit different than mild acne.

Bayer was later called to the carpet over that ad and was required by the FDA to air a corrected ad:

Meanwhile, Anderson was happy to ask her doctor to write her a prescription for this super-cool new contraceptive…

Within a month of starting on drospirenone she began experiencing pain in her legs. Two weeks later she awoke with a chest pain so severe she could barely breathe. Her left leg was becoming progressively numb and cold, and was turning purple.

Turns out Katie had developed a massive blood clot that was still there as of 2010. A piece of the clot had broken away and lodged in her lung as a pulmonary embolism. Katie is lucky to be alive. She was also, at the time, one of thousands suing Bayer.

Various studies have produced a widely held belief that use of drospirenone-based contraceptives such as Beyaz birth control increase the likelihood of Beyaz bleeding that can lead to a blood clot, as well as other Beyaz side effects that can also include heart attacks, strokes, the aforementioned pulmonary emboli, deep vein thrombosis and gallbladder disease.

Oral contraceptives have been around for so long (more than 50 years) and so widely used that most have forgotten that even older, more traditional birth control pills carry a risk for blood clots. As well, one-in-five Caucasian women will have the so-called super-clotting gene known as Factor V Leiden - a gene that makes women so affected 35 times more likely to develop a blood clot from taking a birth control pill. With Yaz (and thus, Beyaz drospirenone) the odds could be even higher. It should be noted, according to NPR, that Katie Anderson has the gene.

Yaz, noted NPR,was the first oral contraceptive to be marketed with “added value.” Beyaz drospirenone is no different, as it is Yaz with the addition of folate. There will be more such birth control pills with added value, as the die has been cast.

Thousands have been injured from that die.

Others - have actually died.


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