FDA Issues Warning About Some Birth Control Pills

The FDA warns women taking a certain class of birth control pills about new evidence that they pose a higher risk of blood clots.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning to women taking a certain class of birth control pills. The agency says there's new evidence that these pills pose a higher risk of serious and potentially fatal blood clots.

NPR's Richard Knox has that story.

RICHARD KNOX: The contraceptives in question are sold as the Yaz, Yazmin, Ocella and a half-dozen other brand names. They contain a hormone called drospirenone. All contraceptives carry some risks of blood clots, but when pills containing drospirenone were introduced about a decade ago, the hope was they posed less risk.

In the past two years, however, two studies suggested that pills with drospirenone are more likely to cause clots than older pills. Two other studies found no higher risk.

The FDA warning cites to new studies in the "British Medical Journal." They found women taking these pills have two-to-three-times higher risk of serious clots, compared to women taking older pills containing a different hormone recipe.

Susan Jick of Boston University is a co-author of both new studies. She says the clot risk is still small and women have different reactions to different birth control pills, so it's important to have choices.

But in light of current evidence, Jick knows what she would tell her daughter.

Professor SUSAN JICK (School of Medicine, Boston University): Start on one of the older pills that has a demonstrated lower risk. And if that works for you, that's great. And if not, yes, then you can try one of the others. That's what I would do.

KNOX: Bayer, which makes Yaz and Yazmin, says they are just as safe as older pills.

The FDA is still looking at the question. It's commissioned its own study due out later this summer.

Richard Knox, NPR news.

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