News & Research, Treatment

Birth Control Patch Warning

This has been all over the news, but in case you haven’t seen it, the FDA has issued a warning on Ortho Evra, aka “the patch.” It releases higher level of hormones than previously reported, which puts women at higher risk for blood clots and other serious health problems.

Hormonal birth is often used to treat menstrual migraine and the patch’s convenience is very appealing. Don’t give into the temptation.

If you’ve started having headaches or had your existing headaches worsen and use the patch, changing birth control might be your solution.

I try to give everyone, including companies and sometimes the government, the benefit of the doubt. I can’t delude myself any longer. Why can’t Big Pharma grasp that it’s possible to make money and not hurt people?

3 thoughts on “Birth Control Patch Warning”

  1. Thanks for this update, I had been considering switching to the patch. I’m not sure if my headaches are exacerbated by my current birth control, Depo-Provera, but hesitated to switch things around.

    One of the reasons we’re seeing more news stories about drug side effects is that the approval process at the FDA was made faster. Back in the late 80’s folks were screaming about how slow and bureaucratic the FDA was, how drugs were approved in Europe but not available to Americans. It used to be that our government waited till Britton had approved a drug for several years before approving them here. Britton has a large, diverse population about the size of New Jersey, and we were often using their experiences as a test run. Now drugs are fast tracked through the FDA and increasing news stories like this are the result. Finding the balance between timely approval and safety is not easy.

  2. “Why can’t Big Pharma grasp that it’s possible to make money and not hurt people?”

    Firstly, because every drug hurts some people. In this case, it has been known for years that all estrogen products cause an increased risk of blood clots. If a patch user did not know this, then their doctor committed malpractice in prescribing it.

    Secondly, this effect is rather tiny, like most adverse drug effects. To measure the risk in a statistically meaningful way, you have to watch many thousands of users for years. There is just no other way to measure rare events. People who use a new drug in its first few years are taking their lives into their own hands. (And that goes for every drug. If these new gap junction inhibitors turn out to be the bees knees for migraine prophylaxis, I still won’t take them for a few years. Somebody else can be the guinea pig, thank you very much.)

    Thirdly, unexpected adverse effects are EXPENSIVE for the maker: $500/hour lawyers, literal truckloads of extra paperwork for the FDA, bad PR, lost sales, etc. Nobody sets out to lose that kind of money on purpose.

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