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Do Non-Contraceptive Benefits Mask Beyaz Side Effects?

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Washington, DCThe rush to embrace Beyaz as an oral contraceptive over other brands is understandable based on the added value built into the Bayer Healthcare product: the capacity to help battle acne, and the inclusion of folic acid (vitamin B) thought to be a wise choice for any woman of reproductive age. The potential for serious Beyaz side effects, however, cannot be discounted.

Beyaz is part of the Yaz / Yasmin family that carries the synthetic hormone Beyaz drospirenone as its primary active ingredient. Drospirenone is a so-called third-generation hormone that provides added benefits over more traditional hormones found in older forms of 'The Pill.'

Among these 'non-contraceptive benefits' is some relief from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is a severe form of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). The inclusion of levomefolate (folic acid) can help ward against neural tube defects in an unexpected pregnancy, although such inclusion is somewhat of a so-called Catch-22: contraceptives are designed to prevent unwanted pregnancy. However, should a Beyaz birth control consumer experience an unexpected pregnancy, the folic acid contained in her birth control of choice will benefit the fetus.

The capacity to help with moderate acne in menstruating women as young as 14 remains one of the formidable reasons why doctors will prescribe drospirenone-based contraceptives such as Beyaz—or women of consent will choose the brand. And while the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has properly approved Beyaz to help treat moderate acne in young menstruating females, or to help combat the symptoms of PMDD, the benefits come with potentially serious Beyaz side effects.

Those adverse reactions include the potential for Beyaz blood clots. All forms of oral contraception carry a risk for blood clot—that's nothing new. However, various studies have found the side effects of Beyaz (and others in the drospirenone family, including Yaz and Yasmin) to be worse.

The Oregonian of Portland, back in May (5/16/12), cited an FDA review that found the potential for a three-fold increase in risk for blood clots when compared with older oral contraceptives containing the hormone progestin as the active ingredient.

Some women have died. Others have been rendered totally incapacitated, or experienced a health scare. Many are pursuing a Beyaz lawsuit. And while some studies—including two published in 2011 by the British Medical Journal ((BMJ 4/21/11)—found an undeniable increased risk for Beyaz blood clots for drospirenone-containing contraceptives, others have been inconclusive.

As a result, the FDA has chosen to follow the recommendations of an expert panel to leave Beyaz on the market, but at the same time strengthen label warnings for Beyaz drospirenone and other contraceptives in that class.

In the meantime, young women concerned about acne, PMDD and neural tube defects in an unexpected pregnancy will embrace Beyaz for the non-contraceptive benefits, without perhaps seeing the potential side effects of Beyaz.

Side effects such as Beyaz blood clots which, according to some studies can have dire consequences.

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