In April of this year, the FDA ordered Bayer to warn users that the synthetic hormone called drospirenone, found in the Yasmin and Yaz birth control pills, has a two to three-fold increased risk of blood clots compared to non-drospirenone contraception.
“It is still on the market – the warnings have been changed even though they are not sufficient,” says Burg early one morning from his office in Denver, Colorado where he is a partner with the highly regarded firm of Burg Simpson. “We believe that the product is no more effective than other birth control pills that are significantly safer.”
Bayer recently paid $110 million to settle approximately 500 lawsuits in what is the first sign of resolution in the storm of personal injury litigation brought against the German pharmaceutical manufacturer for harm allegedly caused by Yasmin.
A series of trials was set for earlier this year, but at Bayer’s request, the judge in the MDL cases agreed to invite a mediator in to attempt to settle some of the 11,000 cases currently pending against Bayer and its Yaz birth control pill.
In 2010, Bayer’s contraceptives did $1.58 billion in sales. Settling cases out of court may seem like a preferred strategy – to a degree.
“Those five hundred settlements have roughly averaged $220,000 per case,” says Burg. “I can’t tell you if that number is accurate or not, but what I can tell you is that most of the catastrophic cases have not been settled yet. Those numbers would reflect non-catastrophic deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms, and strokes. So we would think that more seriously injured women would get settlements in excess of those numbers.”
As many as 50 women are believed to have died after using Yasmin or Yaz birth control pills and many of the injuries associated with these drugs have been catastrophic. Burg refers, for example, to the 2007 case of Carissa Ubersox who opted for Yaz because it purported to control acne and bloating. She suffered a massive double pulmonary embolism, her heart stopped, she went into a coma and was left blind at age 24.
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Meanwhile, Burg, who along with the other co-lead counsel in the MDL has reviewed "90 million pages of documents, and taken 110 depositions" says “Someone asked me the other day whether there will be any trials in Yaz litigation cases, and I said I really don’t know.”
Michael Burg is a founding partner of the firm of Burg Simpson. A veteran of over 175 jury trials as lead counsel, Mr. Burg has obtained ten verdicts in excess of $1M and Burg Simpson clients have received settlements, judgments and verdicts in excess of $500M. Burg Simpson has offices in four states.