The Pill Kills

Angela Lanfranchi, M.D.

This past April 13th, reported that Bayer was going to pay at least $100 million to settle about 500 lawsuits regarding injuries and death connected with the use of its Yasmin line of birth control which includes Yasmin and Yaz.

Maybe you’ve seen the ads on TV by lawyers looking for clients to join these lawsuits.  The problem:  young women dying of blood clots leading to heart attacks and strokes from these particular brands of “The Pill.”  No lament about the loss of life.  Just the lament about falling stock values.

 Why isn’t the death of young women news?

The fact that young women on “the pill” are more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, clots in leg veins and clots in the lung while on the pill has been known since their inception.  In fact, when several young women in Puerto Rico died when the pill was first tested for safety, the pill was still deemed safe enough for use by healthy young women.  The increase in incidence of these sometimes fatal ailments was judged to be tolerably low enough for the continuing promotion of the Pill.  

Shockingly, fatalities in women were deemed worth the risk while cases of mildly shrinking testicles were enough to end trials of a birth control pill for men.

There were at least 50 deaths linked to Yasmin and Yaz from 2004 to 2008. But that does not mean they were the only brands of birth control pills linked to deaths.  They were just singled out because they increased the “low” known risk 74%.  In fact, all birth control pills are known to TRIPLE the risk of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism (clots in the lung).

In medicine, doctors are use to balancing the risks and benefits when prescribing therapies. For instance, if you have a fatal cancer it is deemed worthy to take the many risks of chemotherapy because you have a fatal disease and chemotherapy is the only way you have a hope for cure. 

But what about a young woman who does not have a life threatening disease?  In fact this young woman is healthy.  She just wants to control her fertility.  Should she be given a pill that could disable or kill her in her prime? Or should she be taught about her normal fertility cycle? 

After all, what may be true in epidemiological terms, “a low risk”, is not low when it’s you or your daughter or your wife who is now disabled or dead from those risks.

Teaching takes more time than a quick script for the pill from the doctor.  Yet a woman can learn to recognize her fertile times by the normal bodily changes she experiences with her menstrual cycle.  A woman is only fertile only about 100 hours a month.  During her fertile times she can either abstain from sexual intercourse or use another method (such as a barrier method) to control her fertility that won’t put her life at risk.

Why should she be given a Group 1 carcinogen for breast, cervical and liver cancer, again “the Pill”, for the non disease of “fertility” for 3 out of 4 weeks when she is fertile for only 100 hours a month?  Triple the risk for heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolus, and cancer?  The International Agency on Research of Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, listed the Pill as a Group 1 carcinogen in 2005.  I don’t remember seeing that on the 6 o’clock news.  Do you?  Why is a young woman’s life so devalued that risks of death and disability from the Pill are deemed low enough to be inconsequential and “worth it”?  Those risks are not even necessary to obtain her goal of fertility control.  Is the specter of abstaining or the use of a condom or diaphragm so off putting that taking chances with her life (not his) seems so reasonable?

The pill does kill many women every year.  Even a low risk if it’s taken by 82% of the 16 million women of reproductive age (15-45 years old) translates into thousands of deaths a year.  The pill not only increases her risk of heart attack, stroke, lung clots, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver cancer but it also increases her risk of contracting HPV (human papilloma virus) and contracting and transmitting HIV, the AIDS virus.  It influences what partner she chooses and increases her risk of violent death.

These are the facts which are ignored and/or unknown by both women and their doctors.  During the next months I will review the data that have established the four major ways the Pill Kills: clots, cancer, contagion and violence.

14 thoughts on “The Pill Kills

  1. So glad that you posted this, and commented on the sad news of not only the $110 Million payout, but that the FDA gave a pass to Yaz/Yasmin even after all that. Something smells fishy to me. They are definitely putting lives at risk.

    I started an NFP /Fertility Care Pinterest Board, and pinned one of the Yaz victims’ stories, somebody who is actually from my area, a friend of a friend.

    Oh, I also linked to this on my latest post of Fertility News Round Ups–come take a look!

  2. Interesting article, but I have some queries.

    Data from several studies does show an increased risk of increased cervical and liver cancer if birth control pills are used for longer periods of time (>4 years). But other studies show a decreased risk of other types of cancer, including ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. With breast cancer, from what I’ve read, the pill only increases you risk if you have been on it longer than 4 years.

    Rates of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and thromboembolism increase in proportion to the estrogen dose in the birth control pill. For example, formulations with 20 to 35 μg increase risk to about 3 to 4 times normal, but remember that this risk is still only around half of the risk of blood clots during pregnancy. Birth control pills that contain less androgenic progestins (such as desogestrel) might have a slightly higher risk than formulations that contain levonorgestrel.

    • Because estrogen-progestin drugs differentiate the endometrium, the pill decreases uterine cancer. Because the pill reduces ovulations, it will reduce ovarian cancer. Even taking the pill less than 4 years increases breast cancer risk. No one should take a known Group 1 carcinogen for a non disease, fertility. Out of 100 women with cancer, 3 have ovarian, 6 have endometrial and 36 have breast cancer.
      Women take the pill from their teens all the way through until they go through menopause which is ie for decades. They are pregnant for less than a year, 40 weeks for each child. The risk of dying from clotting from the pill far exceeds their clots from being pregnant.

  3. I was wondering if you could provide me with the references for these facts.

    • You can get these on line by google search: oral contraceptives and MI or CVA or PE or DVT or VTE.
      Google IARC Monograpgh 91 for a 400 page PDF on the breast, cervical and liver cancer studies.
      Start with Tanis, BC et al Oral contraceptives and risk of myocardial infarction, NEJM 2001 345: 1787-1783
      Gikku, LA Ischemic stroke risk with oral contraceptives JAMA July 5 2000; 284: 72-78
      Lindegaard, O et al Risk of venous throboembolism from use of oral contraceptives containing different progestogens and oestrogens Danish cohort study 2001-9 BMJ 2011 343:d6423
      Kahlenborn, C et al Oral contraceptives as a risk facor for premenopausal breast cancer: A metanalysis Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2006 81(10) 1290-1302
      Dolle, J et al Risk factors for triple negative breast cancer in women under the age of 45 Cancer Epidem Biomarkers Prevention 2009 18(4) 1157-1165
      Moreno v et al Effect of oral contraceptives on risk of cervical cancer with HPV infection: the IARC multicentric case control study Lancet 2002 Mar 30 359(9312): 1085-92
      Wang, CC et al Risk of HIV infection in oral contraceptive pill users: a metanalysis JAIDS 1999 May 1 21(1): 51-58

  4. Why you don’t hear anything about this — or about the connection between the Pill — a growth hormone, after all — and breast cancer? It’s because a certain class of woman knows quite well that the material success they have enjoyed is dependent upon the Pill and the sexual revolution. Cui bono? Illi bono.

  5. I help teach an introductory class on NFP (Natural Family Planning), BTW – this is NOT the Rhythm Method, at a local pregnancy center. In order to better understand what barrier contraceptives and hormonal contraceptives and/or abortifacients do, it helps to have a brief overview of what takes place each month in a reproductive aged female cycle. Let’s say you have studied this. Now as a licensed pharmacist I can tell you not one barrier or hormonal contraceptive/abortifacient prevents pregnancy 100%. Why? This is because people make mistakes; for example, we do not get the barrier protection in time, we forget to take the pill once, twice, or more in a month, or the barrier protection has been used too much, gets too hot/cold and breaks down. Secondly, not one of these methods prevents the user from contracting an STD/STI (sexually transmitted disease/sexually transmitted infection, e.g., gonnorhea, syphillis, HIV-AIDS). There are 25 more STI’s than 1950, one out of five Americans has an STI and there are 19million new STI cases each year in the U.S. Much more to share but out of typing room…

    • Barrier methods do dcerease the risk of infection for organisms in the ejaculate such as hepatitis and HIV; however viruses
      transmitted through skin to skin contact such as HPV or Herpes are not prevented by barrier methods.

  6. Thank you for including violence as a consequence of the pill… so many people miss the link between the two. More needs to be said on the subject.
    God Bless.

    • I plan to do a post on the data that shows the link between the pill and a violent death.
      It is based upon the fact that women on the pill choose partners that they are similar to in the
      major histocompatibility genes resulting in less sex, bad sex and cheating, or “extra-pair bondings” as
      the sociologists put it.

  7. you bring up an interesting point that i don’t think gets enough attention…

    “Teaching takes more time than a quick script for the pill from the doctor. Yet a woman can learn to recognize her fertile times by the normal bodily changes she experiences with her menstrual cycle.”

    in our fast food, fedexed society, we often are not even aware of such options. how would a woman/young girl begin to learn about her own body’s fertility cycles? who would teach her?

    • There are a number of ways to learn NFP. If you go to the web site, there are a listing of web sites as references in the brochure “If it’s not OK for him to take steroids, why is it OK for her?” You can also get a list of NFP only physicians from the web site for One More Soul.

  8. The Philippines is on the edge of approving the Bill on Reproductive Health in Congress that will provide a wide range of contraceptive materials to all, including the pill as essential drugs. It seems our congressmen who are for the bill are only informed of the “wonder” of this, but never this kind of information. There are many complications of contraceptive pills that we should know, but should include an informed consent, an understanding that what they are taking could kill. They should read this article and know the truth.