Birth Control Archive

Birth Control Archive 2001-2002

  • THE PILL, HPV AND CANCER — Women infected with the common STD human papilloma virus [HPV] have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer if they have taken birth control pills for more than five years. Experts say the study supports what many gynecologists have long suspected – that there is a causal connection between the pills and cervical cancer. Previous studies have not ruled out the possibility women who take the pill may simply be more likely to be infected with HPV, the main cause of the cancer. “This study suggests that if you’ve got an HPV infection, oral contraceptives may actually be promoting the rate at which that progresses to cancer,” said Dr. Jack Cuzick, head of mathematics, statistics and epidemiology at Cancer Research UK in London. He was not connected with the study. Nearly all sexually active women will be infected by HPV sometime during their lives, but in most cases the immune system quickly eliminates it. The key issue is why, in some cases, the virus does not go away. If the infection persists, the chances of cancer increase enormously. The study was conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization. Researchers pooled data from eight earlier studies of 3,769 women from four continents. Of those, 1,853 had cervical cancer, and 1,916 did not. As expected, nearly all the women with cancer tested positive for HPV, while hardly any who were cancer-free had the virus. The WHO researchers found that women who had taken the pill were no more likely than the others to be carriers of HPV. However, those infected with HPV who had used birth control pills for an accumulated total of five years or more were nearly three
    times more likely to develop cervical cancer than HPV-infected women who had never taken the pill. The increased risk persisted for up to 14 years after stopping the contraceptives. Women who had taken the pill for 10 years or more were four times more likely to get the disease than those who had never taken it. Using the pill for less than five years did not result in a higher chance of cervical cancer.

    “We think that our results lend support to the existence of an association between oral contraceptives and HPV,” said scientist Silvia Franceschi. Women have about a 1 percent chance of developing cervical cancer. Based on the new findings, taking the pill for five years or more could push that chance up to about 3 percent and taking it for a total of 10 years could raise it to about 4 percent. Worldwide, almost 360,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1990, the latest date for which figures are available. Of those, 190,000 died of the disease. It is the second most common cancer in women. Cervical cancer strikes 12,900 American women each year and kills 4,400 of them. [The Lancet medical journal website; www.usatoday.com/life/dcovwed.htm; AP, LONDON, March 26, 2002; NAC 27Mar02]

  • STUDY SUGGESTS BIRTH CONTROL PILL LINKED TO BREAST CANCER – A new study presented at the third European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona, confirms that taking the birth control pill at any stage in a woman’s life increases the chance of contracting breast cancer. The study, which looked at 103,000 women aged between 30 and 49 in Norway and Sweden found the risk of developing the deadly cancer rose by 26% for women who had taken the pill over those who had never used it. Moreover, women who had used the pill for long periods of time increased their risk of breast cancer by 58%. The study also found that women over 45 still using the pill had an increased risk of 144%. [www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_551612.html; BARCELONA, March 25, 2002; LSN.ca]

 

  • UNDER-AGE PILL ‘NOT WORKING’ — The commitment to cutting the high teenage pregnancy rate in Britain by improving young people’s access to contraception is “completely wrong and misguided”. A 14-year study conducted in 16 areas found no evidence that family planning services reduced the pregnancy rate among girls under 16. This is a blow to the Government’s advisory group on teenage pregnancies which last year recommended that children wanting to have sexual intercourse before the legal age of consent should be able to receive the Pill and condoms at school. This report found a higher conception rate in areas where a greater number of girls aged 13 to 15 visited family planning clinics. Dr David Paton of Nottingham University Business School, He said “…if anything, the overall effect of expanding family planning services for under-16s has been to increase pregnancies and abortions.”

    [http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/03/04/npreg04.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/03/04/ixhome.html&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=152042; 04/03/2002; Journal of Health Economics]

 

  • PILL ‘CAUSED LONG-TERM DAMAGE’ — women say they were not warned of the risks.  A test case involving more than 100 women who say they were exposed to potentially lethal side effects of the third generation contraceptive pill has started at the High Court. Lawyers representing the families are taking action against three pharmaceutical companies (Schering Healthcare, Organon Labs & Wyeth), saying the women were not warned of the possible dangers of the Pill. They claim the third generation Pill caused the women to develop blood clots which led to long-term damage to their health, and in around 10% of cases, proved fatal. The companies say they will vigorously reject suggestions that the third generation Pill, introduced in the 80s, is slightly riskier than its predecessors. The case is the first of its type and, if successful, could lead to massive compensation payouts, expected to total about £10m. The legal challenge, being brought under the Consumer Protection Act, is expected to last many months.

    Third generation Pills include Femodene, Femodette, Marvelon, Mercilon, Minulet, Triadene and Tri-Minulet. The women, aged 24-43, had conditions including deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, strokes and cerebral vein thrombosis. The litigation, involving some claims brought on behalf of women who have died, will focus on seven individual cases. “A product that carries such a risk, but doesn’t carry a warning about it is, we submit, a defective product under that statute.”

    Organon insists there is no difference in risk of thrombosis between second & third generation Pills, and this will form the backbone of its case: “The association between Pills and thrombosis has been known since the late 60s and all Pill packets have contained the warning and that’s for any type of Pill.” The Department of Health has issued guidelines on the risks associated with venous thromboembolism (VTE) – blood clots in the veins – and third generation oral contraceptives. It suggests the risk of VTE is slightly higher in women taking any combined oral contraceptive Pill, compared with those not on the Pill. But this risk is “very small.” It says there is no reason for women to stop taking the pill. Lord Brennan told the court the increased risk of third generation products had featured in a major debate among epidemiology experts as well as among regulatory authorities such as the World Health Organization.[http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health/newsid_1848000/1848697.stm BBC News, 4Mar02]

 

  • Apparently, the Chinese government has ordered RU-486 off the nation’s pharmacy shelves, citing numerous reports of women who required hospitalization bec
    ause of the drug’
    s side effects. [The Judie Brown Report, 11/01]

 

  • The FDA has approved another birth control device called Nuva-Ring. FDA acknowledges the risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. [The Judie Brown Report, 11/01]

 

  • AMA VOTES AGAINST LETTING WOMEN KNOW “THE PILL” MAY BE ABORTIFACIENT — voted 12/01 overwhelmingly against a proposal to inform women about the potential for birth control pills to cause the abortion of an embryo by preventing implantation in the uterus. John Nelson, MD, a member of the AMA’s executive committee, trustee and practicing obstetrician-gynecologist, said the Alabama doctor who put forward the proposal before the AMA “believes that in the spirit of enhancing the patient/physician relationship, that information ought to be disclosed to patients to help them make choices.” However, according to Nelson, the proposal was voted down because “many people from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine… decided that they would testify, and their testimony was that there is not sufficient scientific evidence to suggest” that birth control substances can induce abortions. Walter Weber, senior litigation counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice, a Virginia-based public interest law firm, reacted to the vote saying, “If [pro-life women] are using a method that can operate after fertilization as well as before fertilization, and they don’t know it, they are basically being deceived by lack of information into violating their own consciences.” The Family Research Council (FRC) condemned the attempt to conceal the truth from women. FRC Advisory Board Member John Diggs, MD, said, “The AMA is doing a great disservice to women by refusing to fully inform them of their birth control options. Since informed consent is a basic medical ethic, it should be standard operating procedure to tell women that the birth control pill can cause an abortion. Each woman has the right to know what’s good for her health and acceptable to her conscience. If the AMA has suppressed its conscience, it shouldn’t draw American women into its own ethical lapses.” FRC noted that the prescribing information for Ortho Tri-Cyclen, a popular oral contraceptive, enumerates three pathways by which the pill works: suppressing ovulation, preventing fertilization, and precluding the implantation of an already fertilized egg. The third one constitutes an abortion. The third function is conspicuously excluded from information made available to patients. “If manufacturers are telling doctors that oral contraceptives can keep a new member of the human family from being nourished, why isn’t that information being passed on to patients? “I’m highly disappointed,” said Dr. John Diggs, a medical issues advisor to the Family Research Council. “For them to intentionally say that (they) are not going to inform American women about the real function, the real mechanism (by which) birth control pills work is extremely disappointing.” Dr. Gene Rudd, vice president of the Christian Medical Association, said the AMA is returning to an attitude of “doctor knows best.” He said the group thinks it should decide what it thinks the patient ought to know and ought not to know, based on its particular ethical or moral views. “That’s very contrary to the tenants of informed consent,” Rudd said. The proposal may be brought up again next year [http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/A0018915.html; Cybercast News Service; CITIZENLINK, 14Dec01, www.citizenlink.org, M. Cowan; DC, 10Dec01 LSN.ca/CWNews.com; Infonet]

 

  • Pharmacists offer ‘morning-after’ pill in CA without a prescription, making the state only the second to do so. The project is modeled after one in WA State that has filled nearly 12,000 orders in its first 16 months. Other pilot programs are being planned in Oregon and Alaska. Public-health activists and many doctors say the morning-after pill differs from the abortion pill RU-486 because instead of ending an established pregnancy, it prevents a fertilized egg (developing embryo of approximately 100 cells) from implanting itself in the uterus. New Jersey-based Gynetics, which manufactures a morning-after pill called Preven, said the drug probably still wouldn’t be available over the counter because sales are too low to support such a switch. [http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/california/stories/mornpill_20010412, April 12, 2001, in the Contra Costa Newspapers, AP; Pro-Life E-News]

 

  • GEL TO STOP STDS HOLDS EMPTY PROMISE – BufferGelTM, a new contraceptive to block ‘sperm and germs’ , according to scientists, will begin clinical efficacy trials at the National Institutes of Health’s Contraceptive Clinical Trials Network on 1,000 women in the USA. “The company tries to present the gel as a new phase in the battle against [STDs]. The recurrent news releases about one gel or another to stop STDs were first noted about one year ago. Coincidentally, at the time, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) was authoring a meta-analysis of condom research that exposed the absence of science to show condoms can quell the worldwide STD epidemic. This was big news. If the idea of ‘safe sex’ or ‘protected intercourse’ were to be maintained, one of two things needed to happen. One, condoms needed to dramatically improve as a public health intervention. Failing that, a new technology needed to come to the forefront. “BufferGelTM is billed as one of the new products that will revolutionize STD prevention. Closer inspection reveals this it holds all the promise of Al Capone’s empty vault.

    The most obvious observation is that the gel has yet to be shown effective. More than two years ago, at least four different gels, including BufferGelTM were thought to show promise; but protection against STDs is still unproven in any of them.

    Second, the gel is not an independent product. It still requires the use of a vaginal diaphragm, a product that has fallen into disfavor for good reasons. Its knack for looking like and acting like a Frisbee is certainly one of them. Changing the type of gel will not enhance its popularity.

    “The gel is described as putting control for STD prevention in female hands. Hmm. It always has been in female control in the sense that she can say ‘no.’ On the other hand, if a struggle for STD control is underway, then it is clear the couple shouldn’t be sexually involved.

    “The gel with a 20-year promotional history of stopping STDs was finally unmasked at the 13th International AIDS Conference (July 2000) where it was reported that nonoxynol-9 very likely increased the transmission of HIV. Women in four countries were shown to have higher rates of HIV if they used nonoxynol-9 than those who did not. Lest one miss the full impact of the last sentence, those women who contracted HIV in the study are already dead or dying and probably infecting their children who will die shortly. Very few people in South Africa, Benin, Thailand or Ivory Coast get treated for AIDS.

    “For two decades, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other national and international health agencies have been touting nonoxynol-9 as key in preventing HIV. Evidence that it may increase STD transmission has been available for about nine years but was not publicized.

    “Unfortunately, so many organizations are desperate to enable laissez-faire sex that they cover-up the illness and death that ideology produces. Promises of gels that will stop STDs are prematurely released to instill hope that yes, there is a way to have your cake and eat it too. The CDC failure to warn Americans of the dangers of nonoxynol-9, and the CDC’s ongoing refusal to endorse the findings of
    the NIAID that revealed
    lack of scientific evidence of condom effectiveness are two smoldering examples.

    Consequently, the public is forced to question all promises of new technology that makes promiscuous sex safe. Nature has a way of smacking down attempts to get around the axiom that sex is best and healthiest when reserved for marriage.

    “The new gels have new mechanisms but no proven effect. They are still messy, and still require the use of a diaphragm. Don’t hold your breath waiting for promiscuity to become safe. Best to not get addicted to it in the first place. Save sex for marriage.” [emphasis added][Abstinence Clearinghouse, E-Mail Update, 11Jan02 John R. Diggs, Jr., MD]

 

  • ORAL CONTRACEPTIVES MAY REDUCE SENSE OF SMELL – women who take OCs may be less responsive to the scents that attract them to men. Prof S. Caruso at the Univ of Catania in Italy et al studied 60 women, ages 18-40, and measured their ability to identify 6 distinctive substances (anise, musk-ketone, clove, pyridine, citrus, ammonia) at the follicular, periovular and luteal phases of their menstrual cycles and at days 7, 14 and 21 of contraceptive intake. Women who did not take OCs experienced rises & falls in their ability to sense smells, peaking at the time of ovulation when they are most likely to conceive. But women who took oral contraceptives experienced no change in scent sensitivity throughout their cycles [Caruso et al., Human Reproduction, November 2001; BBC News, 10/25/01]. Dr. David Brinton, a reproductive endocrinologist (Wm Beaumont Hospital, MI) noted that the areas of the brain that control both the sense of smell and the ovaries are located in close proximity, and something that affects one area could affect the other. “There are women who are born without a sense of smell who have no activity in their ovaries,” he said, adding, “There is a physiological proximity issue” [Willis, ABCnews.com, 10/25; Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Reports, 10/29/01]