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NuvaRing Controversy: Should You Consider Another Contraceptive?

From the Show: HER
Summary: Merck, NuvaRing’s manufacturer, faces roughly 3,500 lawsuits, including a major class-action suit.
Air Date: 2/13/14
Duration: 10
Host: Michelle King Robson and Dr. Pamela Peeke, MD
Guest Bio: Marjorie Jenkins, MD
Dr. Jenkins HeadshotDr Jenkins is a professor of medicine, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health (LWBIWH), a research and education institute focused on supporting research and education in women's health and sex and gender differences.

As a sex- and gender-specific women's health expert with more than a decade of experience, she provides specialty patient consultations and assists organizations in the development of strategies to engage women's health consumers through integration of sex and gender evidence-based medicine into clinical practice. She has served (and continues to serve0 nationally in a variety of positions, such as a co-chair for the Reproduction Workgroup of NASA's Decadal Review of Sex and Gender Research, an executive council member of the Sex and Gender Women's Health Collaborative, a member of the Women's Health Writing Group of the National Board of Medical Examiners, a founding board member for the Academy of Women's Health, and an expert panel member for the Health Resources and Services Organization (HRSA) Women's Health Curricula: Report on Inter-professional Collaboration Across the Health Professions and consultant to 60 Minutes.
NuvaRing Controversy: Should You Consider Another Contraceptive?
The vaginal contraceptive NuvaRing has been linked to blood-clot-related fatalities; but the head of a group representing Canada’s obstetricians and gynecologists says the dangers are overblown. 

Merck, NuvaRing’s manufacturer, faces roughly 3,500 lawsuits related to the product, including a major class-action suit.

Plaintiffs allege they suffered serious adverse effects, including deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot in a deep vein that can travel to the lungs and cause organ damage and death.

Concerns about the NuvaRing rest largely on two studies. In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that women using the vaginal ring had a 56 percent increased risk of blood clots compared with those on contraceptives using an older form of estrogen.

In 2012, a Danish study published in the British Medical Journal found that women who used the vaginal ring were at least six times more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis than women who did not use hormonal contraceptives. 

The studies suggest NuvaRing may carry the risk of a third-generation hormonal product. This class also includes the controversial Yaz and Yasmin birth-control pills that have cost manufacturer Bayer more than a billion dollars in out-of-court settlements.

Why, despite evidence of serious risk, does a potentially lethal contraceptive remain on the market?

Marjorie Jenkins, MD, is the Executive Director of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health in Amarillo at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Dr. Jenkins explains if the alarming reports put the risks in context and if you should consider another birth-control option.

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