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Yasmin Birth Control Suspected in Deaths of Canadian Teens

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Toronto, ONIn spite of 24 deaths, six of them teenagers, amongst patients of Yasmin birth control in Canada, health regulators north of the border have no plans to recall the product, and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada maintain that both Yaz birth control and the Yasmin pill are safe and effective.

But tell that to the mothers of six Canadian teens who were taking either Yaz or Yasmin at the time of their deaths. While an adverse reaction report does not directly link the cause of death to Yasmin side effects, the fact remains that two 18-year-olds, two 15-year-olds and two 14-year-olds were taking the drospirenone-based birth control pills when they died from blood clots.

The Toronto Star (6/12/13) reported that 24 deaths were among about 600 adverse reaction reports filed with Health Canada, the equivalent to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), between 2007 and February 28, 2013.

As for Yaz lawsuits, no fewer than 13 class actions have been filed alleging grievous Yasmin side effects and similar adverse reactions to Yaz. Of the 24 deaths, 15 identified Yasmin as a suspected product with nine linked to Yaz side effects, according to The Toronto Star.

All contraceptives carry a risk for blood clot, albeit small. However, newer-generation birth control pills containing drospirenone have been associated by some studies to carry a more pronounced risk for blood clots and Yasmin DVT (deep vein thrombosis) than older, more traditional birth control pills.

Other studies have not identified a link, and the safety of Yasmin birth control and Yaz side effects remain the subject of much debate.

Jennifer Blake, a gynecologist and CEO of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, said in comments published in The Globe and Mail (6/12/13) that “adverse events are very different from attributable events, and [the latter] is the number you need,” Blake said. “We are advising that there is no new data and ... that the pills are safe and effective.”

For its part, Health Canada has indicated it has no intention of removing Yaz birth control pills or Yasmin from the Canadian market (the FDA maintains a similar position in this country).

“At this time, it is Health Canada’s view that the benefits of Yaz and Yasmin continue to outweigh the risks, when used according to Health Canada’s approved labeling instructions,” said Health Canada spokesperson Leslie Meerburg. However, the debate continues to leave some health regulators appearing to talk from both sides of their mouths.

Meerburg, in comments published in The Globe and Mail, also stated that “the risk of blood clots with these products is well known, and is included in the drug label.”

A safety review conducted by Health Canada in 2011 determined that the Yaz birth control pills and Yasmin products may be associated with a one-and-a-half to threefold increased risk of blood clots compared with other hormonal contraceptives. The US Food and Drug Administration arrived at a similar conclusion.

However, until the majority of studies agree on the greater blood clot risk, health agencies in the US and Canada are reluctant to mandate a recall, and continue to maintain that benefits of drospirenone-based contraceptives outweigh the risks.

Cold comfort for the families of six teens, including two 14-year-old girls, whose lives were cut tragically short while taking Yasmin birth control pills or next-of-kin Yaz…

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