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'Contraceptive Pill is Outdated and Does Not Work Well', Expert Warns

$68.7 Million Paid in Out-Of-Court Settlements by Contraceptive Patch Manufacturer…

'Contraceptive Pill is outdated and does not work well', expert warns
The contraceptive Pill is outdated and leading to unwanted pregnancies and abortion as few women take it correctly, a leading expert said.
 One in 12 women taking the Pill get pregnant each year because they miss so many tablets, Prof James Trussell, of Princeton University in America warned.

Women should instead use longer-lasting methods such as the implant or intra-uterine device (IUD) which can be fitted and forgotten, he said.

Half of all pregnancies in America are unintended and half of those happen because contraception failed or was not taken properly, the rest were not using any contraception.

No UK studies have ever been carried out but the rates are thought to be similar. Half of unintended pregnancies end in abortion.

Prof Trussell was speaking at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service conference in London and said few GPs offer long acting reversible contraceptives or are trained at fitting them, so most women end up using the Pill by default.

Also sexual health clinics where the methods are available are being closed down, either because of financial deficits in the NHS or just because it is a low priority, Prof Trussell said.

He said: "The Pill is an outdated method because it does not work well enough. It is very difficult for ordinary women to take a pill every single day. The beauty of the implant or the IUD is that you can forget about them."

He said studies have shown women miss three times as many pills as they say they do. Computerised pill packs have revealed that where as about half of women say they did not miss any pills, less than a third actually did. And where as between 10 per cent and 14 per cent admitted missing more than three pills in a month, actually between 30 per cent and 50 per cent missed that many.

The Government wants to encourage more women to use long acting methods and guidance has suggested that if seven per cent of women currently using the Pill switched to a long acting method, then it would prevent 73,000 unintended pregnancies, saving the NHS £100m a year.

Abortion figures released last week showing there were 205,598 terminations in England and Wales in 2007 and in a third of cases the woman had previously had one or more abortions.

Providing long acting contraceptives alongside abortions would help reduce repeat terminations, experts said.

Prof Trussell said increasing access to the emergency contraception would not reduce unintended pregnancies and the resulting abortions, despite a massive Government drive to provide it free to young girls.

It is 'unrealistic' to expect women to take the emergency contraceptive every time they have unprotected sex, Prof Trussell said.

"It is not reduced unintended pregnancies in America or anywhere else that has introduced it. There is so much unprotected sex you would have to use so much emergency contraception to make a dent," he said.

"It is not a magic bullet. If you want to seriously reduce unintended pregnancies in the UK you can only do with implants and IUDs."
By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
Last Updated: 25 Jun 2008




$68.7 Million Paid in Out-Of-Court Settlements by Contraceptive Patch Manufacturer

Johnson and Johnson, one of the world's largest manufacturers of health products, has not released to its investors the financial records of hundreds of settlements over the Ortho Evra long-wear hormone patch.

Legal documents have shown that the manufacturer of one of the world's most popular long-term contraceptive drugs has paid out at least US $68.7 million in out-of-court settlements over side effects of the drug. reported yesterday that Johnson and Johnson, one of the world's largest manufacturers of health products, has not released to its investors the financial records of hundreds of settlements over the Ortho Evra long-wear hormone patch.

Twenty women have died, and 4000 have filed complaints in state and federal courts, alleging that Ortho Evra caused deep-vein thrombosis, or blood clots in the legs and pulmonary embolisms, or blood clots in the lungs. Some complaints have linked the patch to heart attacks and strokes. 

Altogether, 4000 women have filed complaints in state and federal courts claiming the company hid or altered data about possible health risks associated with the high levels of estrogen released by the patch.

Gloria Vanderham, a spokesman for Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc., that manufactures the drug for Johnson and Johnson, told, "Ortho Evra provides a needed birth-control option for women and physicians. When used according to the FDA- approved label, Ortho Evra is a safe and effective method of hormonal birth control."

The company "regularly and properly disclosed data to the FDA, the medical community and the public in a timely manner," Vanderham said. In 2005, an Associated Press report noted that 23 deaths were attributed to use of the patch since the FDA approved it in 2001.

The Ortho Evra patch, introduced in 2002, was touted by Johnson & Johnson as a convenient alternative to daily oral contraceptive pills. In 2005, after investigations by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the company updated its product labels to say that Ortho Evra exposes women to 60 percent more estrogen than the typical birth-control pill and that higher estrogen increases side effects.

One lawsuit in 2005 alleged that Ortho Evra is "unreasonably dangerous," and "defectively designed." That suit was filed by 10 women who suffered from strokes or serious blood clots; all suffer from long-term debilitating effects from the patch.

In 2006, a federal drug safety report obtained by the Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, "indicate that in 2004 – when 800,000 women were on the patch – the risk of dying or suffering a survivable blood clot while using the device was about three times higher than while using birth control pills."

Read related coverage:

Woman Sues "Birth Control" Patch Manufacturer for Pulmonary Embolism

Ortho McNeil Corp Admits Birth Control Patch Blood Clot Connection

18 Year-Old New York Student Dies Suddenly from Birth Control Complications

[By Hilary White, October 14, 2008,]