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The popular birth control NuvaRing could be causing blood clots in thousands of woman who use it—and has even allegedly resulted in deaths.

In a recent report for Vanity Fair, one mother told of her daughter’s death, caused by the NuvaRing.

Karen Langhart’s daughter, Erika Langhart, 24, died of a pulmonary embolism on Thanksgiving Day in 2011, after using NuvaRing for approximately four years. On the program for Erika’s memorial service, her mother wrote “Cause of Passing: Massive, Double Pulmonary Embolism—a direct result of the NuvaRing.”

“I want to warn every mother and every daughter: Do not use the product that killed my child,” Langhart says.

Erika’s doctor told her mother the vaginal birth control was to blame.

Vanity Fair’s writer-at-large, Marie Brenner’s intensive reporting uncovered several other women who had potentially fatal reactions to NuvaRing:

Brenner also speaks to Megan Henry, coincidentally a college classmate of Erika’s and a member of World Class Athletes, the army’s elite team of soldier-athletes. Ten days after she had started using NuvaRing, Megan, like Erika, found herself gasping for breath. “One doctor I went to told me I was under stress, or maybe I had asthma,” she tells Brenner. “He gave me an inhaler.” On a flight to Florida for more training, she almost collapsed. “At Urgent Care, I was given an X-ray—it was clear. I said, ‘Could this be the Nuva­Ring?’ ‘Absolutely not,’ the doctor said.” Megan’s mother, Barbara, told her, “Megan, you need to come home now, and I will get you an appointment with a pulmonologist.” After a second flight—she later learned that that alone could have killed her—Megan told her history to a Connecticut doctor, who ordered a CT scan. It revealed dozens of blood clots in her lungs. Rushed to the hospital, she was put on blood thinners in the E.R., and she remained hospitalized for a week. “I was told, ‘Your career as an athlete is over,’ ” she said. “If you weren’t in the shape you are, you would be dead,” her doctor informed her. Though Megan tells Brenner that she is almost back to normal and training again, she will have a much higher risk of blood clots for the rest of her life, she said, and if she gets pregnant, she will likely have to go on a painful regimen of injections of Lovenox to prevent clots.

Brenner interviews Hunter Shkolnik, a lawyer bringing lawsuits against Merck. Shkolnik tells Brenner that Organon (the Dutch pharmaceutical company that created the device) launched into NuvaRing’s marketing with a scientist’s research study that had examined only 16 women using NuvaRing. That study, No. 34218, on the release of hormones in different birth-control delivery systems, was so outrageous, Shkolnik tells Brenner, that he felt it justified focusing his entire legal career on drug cases. Shkolnik tells Brenner that the summary prepared by Organon for the F.D.A. was attached to thousands of pages of backup, in which were buried the risks associated with blood clots. “This is a standard subterfuge used by Pharma,” he says. “You bury your bad news in one of 500 studies you have done on ease of use or lipid disorder. Then when the F.D.A. comes back to the drug company, the drug company can say, ‘You had it in your documents.’ If it isn’t in the 30-page summary, the F.D.A. is so understaffed it will never be noticed.”

In an attempt to reach out to Merck’s chairman Ken Frazier of their lawyer, Merck responded by saying Frazier was not able to participate.  But they included a Merck official statement: “Blood clots have long been known as a risk associated with combined hormonal contraceptives. The FDA-­approved patient information and physician package labeling for Nuva­Ring include this information….We remain confident in the safety and efficacy profile of Nuva­Ring—which is supported by extensive scientific research—and we will continue to always act in the best interest of patients.”

According to the FDA itself, NuvaRing user’s have a 56 percent increase of blood clots, and Merck is facing roughly 3,500 lawsuits for health risks from NuvaRing. But the contraceptive remains on the market—and in fact, Merck made $623 million off it in 2012.

 

Clutchettes, have you ever used NuvaRing? Did you experience any side-effects?

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  • L

    I tried it for 2-3 months and then stopped. I could often feel it, as it was constantly slipping down and starting to fall out. I kept getting told “oh you must be putting it in wrong”, but no matter how many times I followed the instructions and tried pushing it up as far as possible… it would still slide out. I switched to the BC pill and have been blissfully happy on it ever since. The NuvaRing gave me too much stress, constantly worrying about it slipping down and poking out.

  • Renee’

    I honestly think it’s just personal preference and how your body works. I find it to be a little bias when people say “Product X is horrible and you shouldn’t take it because it did A, B and C to me.” While it may have done that to YOU, people’s bodies are different and what works for some may not work for others and vice versa. I’ve been on several forms of birth control over the past few years (BC pill, patch, etc.) and most recently I have switched to NuvaRing and I love it. From PERSONAL experience, I felt like the pill contributed to a number of the infections I got, and the patch was just annoying and awkward in itself. I’ve never had a problem with the ring falling out during sex or any other type of movement. And the only time I feel it is if I put it in wrong or its not in far enough. And as far as it falling out with your tampon, well yeah naturally that would happen lol. From my understanding of the instructions, you’re supposed to remove the ring for the week that your period is there, so why you have a tampon in at the same time you’re using the ring, I’m not sure, but to each is own and again everyone is different. And not to play Devil’s Advocate, but like the chairman said, the risks of blood clots are associated with ALL birth controls (maybe I’m the only person that sees the daily 20+ commercials about people suing the company that invented Mirena over blood clots). Personally, the Mirena lawsuit commercials have put the fear of God in me, but I have friends that are using it just fine. So it really just depends on your body and you as a person and what YOU prefer…

  • While looking for birth control I knew the Nuvaring would not be for me, just like I knew the pill would not be for me either. I didn’t like the process of putting it in and taking it out. Also I knew it would fall out a lot of me. I wanted an IUD but when it was time to put it i that was a horrible experience. Therefore, I just went with the Implanon and I am fine with it.

  • I used Mirena for 3.5 years (I couldn’t wait the extra 1.5) and I HATED IT! My hormones NEVER adjusted it.

  • Tori

    All birth control carries risk, I believe most types increase risk of blot clot and stroke, but Nuva Ring has been presenting abnormally high cases.

    After doing tons of research on alternatives, I eventually chose to a low dose pill. To me the pill is the most reliable (if you can remember to take it), and carries the least amount of risk. These newer alternatives still have some kinks to be worked out.

    Needless to say after hearing about Nuva Ring I will not be persuaded to try anything different for a long time, if ever.