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According to a WBNG-TV news report, another woman has died allegedly because she was using a birth control patch. She was 21-year old Justine Sperbeck of New York, and on August 28, 2013, she suddenly passed out. Her family later learned she had suffered a pulmonary embolism, or a massive blood clot in the lungs. The injury is believed by the family to be related to Ortho Evra, a hormonal birth control patch made by a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson (J&J).

What is the Ortho Evra?

Approved by the FDA in 2001 as a birth control option, Ortho Evra is a contraceptive patch used to prevent pregnancy. J&J has marketed the patch as being a more convenient option for “busy women who are looking to simplify life.”

Researchers have conducted a number of studies evaluating the patch’s blood clot risk, and have reached differing conclusions. At least two studies, however, reported that patch users have twice the risk of blood clots as women taking traditional birth control pills. In 2005, the FDA stated that women using the patch were exposed to about 60 percent more estrogen than those using oral contraceptive pills.

FDA Acknowledges Risk

In December 2011, a panel of federal health advisors noted that the Ortho Evra probably does carry a higher risk of blood clots than older drugs, but recommended that it remain available as an option for women who have trouble taking a daily pill. The reproductive experts voted 19-5 that the benefits outweighed the risks, specifically of dangerous blood clots in the legs and lungs.

The pulmonary embolism that Justine Sperbeck allegedly suffered from has been linked to birth-control-related blood clots in numerous cases. New-generation birth control pills that contain the progestin “drospirenone,” such as Yaz and Yasmin, has been the subject of thousands of lawsuits filed by women who suffered similar injuries.

A pulmonary embolism may result when a blood clots develops in the deep veins of the body, typically in the legs, then breaks off and moves up to the lungs, where it can increase blood pressure, damage the lung, cause low blood oxygen, damage other organs in the body, and even lead to death.

J&J Already Settled Lawsuits

Justine first complained of a pain in her leg, stating she thought she pulled a muscle. It was after that complaint that she passed out. Paramedics came to the house in minutes and took her to the hospital, but she didn’t survive.

According to a Bloomberg report, in 2008, J&J settled hundreds of lawsuits claiming injuries from the Ortho Evra patch, spending at least $68.7 million. The women suffered blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes after using the product, though the majority experienced injuries similar to Justine’s—deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. The complaints blamed the patch for 20 deaths.

The FDA has required the manufacturer to make changes to the warning label.


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