"There was a study published in the June edition of the New England Journal of Medicine that highlighted a Danish study which compared various types of birth control pharmaceutical methods for risk of heart attacks and ischemic strokes," Malik says. "The study concluded that women who use combined hormonal products [birth control that uses two hormones, including some oral contraceptives and NuvaRing] have increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. The risk odds are significantly higher than in single-hormone birth control."
The study examined 1.6 million women between the ages of 15 and 49. Researchers found that women who used combined hormonal birth control had twice the risk of heart attack or stroke as women not using such birth control. The risk was even higher with NuvaRing, which was found to increase the risk by up to three times.
The New England Journal of Medicine study followed a BMJ study, published in May 2011, which similarly found a risk associated with the use of NuvaRing. In that study, which also followed Danish non-pregnant women between the ages of 15 and 49, researchers found that women who used vaginal rings such as NuvaRing were at 6.5 times the increased risk of confirmed venous thrombosis, compared with women who did not use hormonal contraceptives.
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Lawsuits have been filed alleging women were harmed by the use of NuvaRing and that Merck downplayed or failed to disclose the risks associated with the contraceptive. In June 2012, at least four new lawsuits were filed alleging plaintiffs suffered pulmonary embolism, sinus thrombosis—a blood clot in the brain—or vein thrombosis linked to the use of NuvaRing.
"The overall message is that NuvaRing is linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks, and we allege the company, Merck, hasn't fully disclosed the risks involved," Malik says.