The Risks of the Birth Control Patch

The Patch Pro-lifers have been warning for years about the physical side effects associated with various forms of birth control. Note in particular this tragic story about a 25-year old mother who died after several days of terrible headaches caused by hormones released into her body from the Ortho Evra birth control patch. These paragraphs from the article cited above caught my attention:

Though the Food and Drug Administration and patch-maker Ortho McNeil saw warning signs of possible problems with the patch well before it reached the market, both maintain that the patch is as safe as the pill. However, the reports obtained by the AP appear to indicate that in 2004 — when 800,000 women were on the patch — the risk of dying or suffering a survivable blood clot while using the device was about three times higher than while using birth control pills. The women who died were young and apparently at low risk for clots — women like Zakiya Kennedy, an 18-year-old Manhattan fashion student who collapsed and died in a New York subway station last April. Or Sasha Webber, a 25-year-old mother of two from Baychester, N.Y., who died of a heart attack after six weeks on the patch last March. Some doctors, reviewing the Food and Drug Administration reports at the request of The AP, were alarmed. “I was shocked,” said Dr. Alan DeCherney, editor-in-chief of Fertility and Sterility and a UCLA professor of obstetrics and gynecology. But other doctors said they would have expected some deaths and no investigation is warranted. They point to more than 4 million women who have safely used the patch and note that the FDA reports are called in voluntarily, rather than gathered scientifically. “It doesn’t jump out at me to say, ‘Let’s look at this any further,”’ agreed Dr. Steven J. Sondheimer, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania. “I don’t feel that these need to be looked at in any detail [emphasis added].”

How does the FDA respond? By updating the warning label. Because, you know, those in charge at the FDA apparently “don’t feel” that investigations into the deaths of otherwise healthy women who died while on the patch “need to be looked at in any detail.” One Chicago news station reported on the FDA’s recent decision:

The FDA recommends [that] women concerned about blood clots talk to their doctors about the best form of contraception available to them.

(The video link is here; scroll down to “ADHD, birth control risks, and sleeping with allergies – 9/20 Medical Watch”.) Note the tacit assumption on the part of the FDA: That women in their childbearing years would (should?) be using some form of contraception; as if being on birth control were the default setting, if you will, for women. What a strange world we live in: One in which contraceptive sex — whether within marriage or no — is the norm, and sex naturally open to the possibility of conceiving new life is the exception. Hence the need for the “Contraception Is Not the Answer” conference, which opens tonight.

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